International comparison of taxi regulations (English)

In 2014, research was conducted to evaluate the changes made in 2011 to the taxi regulations contained in the national Passenger Transport Act 2000. During the course of this research, Uber’s introduction in the taxi market emerged as an increasingly important focal point. In particular, UberPOP – a service connecting customers to private drivers (operating their own vehicles) via a smartphone app – generated much debate.

It is in this context that the Directorate General Accessibility (DGB) commissioned the KiM Netherlands Institute for Transport Policy Analysis to conduct an international comparison of taxi market regulations and the ways in which various countries have dealt with the advent of Uber, and particularly UberPOP.

Characteristics of the Netherlands’ taxi market

The international comparison of taxi regulations revealed a number of characteristic features specific to the Netherlands as compared to most foreign countries:

  • Certain aspects, such as maximum fares and (the absence of) capacity regulations, are regulated on the national level in the Netherlands.
  • In various foreign countries there is a much stricter distinction made between the individual market segments taxi and hired cars with drivers than there is in the Netherlands.
  • Taxis are also much more routinely ordered by telephone in the Netherlands than in other countries, where a significant proportion of trips occur after taxis are ‘hailed in the street’. In various other countries the ordering of taxis by telephone falls under the segment ‘hired car with driver’. Moreover, the use of a central taxi dispatcher system, which is used in the Netherlands’ major cities as an intermediary between taxi services and taxi customers, is not used in other countries.

The background to the first two points above is that the Netherlands’ regulations strive to facilitate the most effective use possible of cars and drivers, in order that the resources are in place and capable of then being deployed where they can best be utilised, unhindered by regulations that define boundaries between market segments. The third point listed above is seemingly primarily the result of a historically developed culture.

Uber abroad

Regarding Uber, the following characteristics emerge:

  • Services such as UberBlack (which uses certified drivers and company cars) are accepted in many countries. However, in various countries, this service falls under the category ‘hired car with driver’, which is often much less regulated than the taxi market. In some countries, pointed discussions centre on whether the Uber-app could possibly replace the taxi meter, and whether or not the method that Uber uses for fares, and manner of calculating and publishing its fares, comply with the established standards governing taxi fares and the publication thereof. Uber’s fares are flexible, while those for taxis are regulated (fixed or maximum fares), and the fares for hired cars with drivers (and contract transport in the Netherlands) are generally set in advance.
  • The Uber-app is in line with the traditional Dutch way of ordering taxis via intermediary central taxi dispatches (previously primarily done by telephone), and in this respect Uber is less of a revolutionary innovation than it is in some other countries. What is new however is that Uber uses just one portal (the app) to cover the entire country, and even internationally.
  • In all the countries researched, UberPOP was not regarded as part of ‘the sharing economy’, but rather as a taxi or hired-car-with-driver service. The service has thus far not been accepted in any of the countries studied, because it does not meet the established requirements (standards pertaining to the cars, drivers, and in some cases standards pertaining to the company). In the Netherlands and various other countries, the guidelines are focused on excluding non-qualified drivers and cars. Moreover, in some countries the guidelines are (also) focused on the app and Uber itself, as a provider of unauthorised services. The latter is not the case in the Netherlands, however, because the Netherlands’ taxi legislation does not contain provisions pertaining to organisations intermediating between taxi supply and demand, such as the central taxi dispatchers operating in the Netherlands’ major cities or Uber.
  • With UberPOP, Uber claims to contribute to innovation in the sharing economy through facilitating a more efficient use of underutilised resources (cars).The Uber app includes a system that relies on customers to evaluate their trips and their corresponding Uber drivers. When this evaluation system works well, it contributes to the operation of a mechanism resulting in more customers for the entrepreneurs (Uber drivers) who have earned a reputation for providing good quality service, and fewer clients for those that provide a poor quality of service. Regarding UberPop, contentious debate centres on working conditions, safety and privacy. As with all innovations, it is important to analyse whether the current regulations remain optimal.