SINGAPORE, May 4 — After a month-long extension, the Uber app will stop operating here on Monday (May 7), ride-hailing firm Grab has confirmed.
Some Uber drivers who were previously told of hefty termination fees have also been able to return their rented vehicles to Uber’s car rental arm, Lion City Rentals (LCR), without any penalty.
The Uber app will cease operating at 11.59pm on May 7 and “riders and drivers will not be able to use the Uber app after that”, Grab said in response to queries today. Thereafter, a small team from Grab that is handling issues related to Uber drivers and riders will also stop doing so, TODAY understands.
Uber’s app was due to stop running here on April 8, as part of Grab’s acquisition of the American firm’s South-east Asian operations on March 26.
News of the deal prompted the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) to launch an investigation, as well as issue interim directives to keep the market open and contestable.
Amid the scrutiny as well as uncertainty faced by Uber drivers, the app was extended to April 15 before being further extended to May 7.
Some Uber drivers did not want to drive for Grab but were told they had to pay a termination fee amounting to thousands of dollars when they tried to return their vehicles to LCR last month. This, despite their contracts no longer being legally binding, according to some lawyers.
Uber driver Jordan Tan told TODAY today that he plans to return his car on Monday and has been given two options by an LCR representative over the phone: Drive two weeks for Grab with “some incentives” and return the car with no penalty if he was not satisfied with his experience, or give “seven days’ notice and return the car without penalty”.
“When I asked for a black-and-white copy of the agreement, they said cannot…only verbal,” said the 38-year-old, who has been driving with Uber for slightly more than a year.
Like Tan, there are others who have chosen to drive for Uber until its final day. When TODAY tried to make a booking from one-north on Uber’s app this evening, there were at least six vehicles in the vicinity with a wait time of at least five minutes.
Part-time driver Alvin Chiam, 46, said he and “quite a few others” have managed to return their rental vehicles without any penalty.
“(LCR) jolly well knows they have no case (against) us, yet they forced us to wait a few weeks before we can return so we have no choice but to pay rental (fees),” he said.
When approached, an Uber spokesperson declined to comment and referred TODAY to the frequently-asked-questions section on LCR’s website. It stated that it will review Uber drivers who do not wish to drive for Grab on a case-by-case basis “in exceptional circumstances”.
Ang Hin Kee, executive adviser to the National Private Hire Vehicles Association (NPHVA) said he was “glad progress has been made”, but hoped all Uber drivers who want return their vehicles will be able to do so without issues.
Businesses “need to be responsible” to anyone who has interaction with them, said the Ang Mo Kio group representation constituency Member of Parliament.
“A lot of the issues could have been better addressed if the Uber management team had been professional and treated these parties fairly,” said Ang. “As can be seen, exclusivity is not a good deal. Contestability is better.”
Asked about his plans, Tan said that he will give either fixed-fare private-hire car service RydeX or the Mass Vehicle Ledger — a mobile app that aims to cut out the middleman between drivers and users — a shot.
According to him, both platforms offer better terms than Grab.
Chiam said he would wait until next month to decide if he will continue as a private-hire driver.
Drivers presently allowed to provide private-hire car services on a temporary concession from the authorities will have until June 30 to pass the Private Hire Car Driver’s Vocational Licence (PDVL).
“I believe by then, we will know how many private hire drivers are left in the market,” said Chiam, who is also hoping the newer entrants would be more stable by then.
“I also believe Go-Jek would have entered the market,” he said, referring to the Indonesian giant rumoured to be in discussions with taxi operator Comfort DelGro and that is expected to give Grab a run for its money.
The CCCS does not expect to complete investigations by May 7 and is still seeking information from both companies.
A spokesperson said Uber is not obliged to extend its app after May 7 under the interim measures.
“The Uber app extension is to help smooth transition for riders and driver, and not meant to be permanent,” she said.
The deal saw Uber taking a 27.5 per cent stake in Grab and the CCCS said “these actions have resulted in a merged company which may face less competition and created a merger situation reviewable under the Competition Act”.
Its interim measures bar Grab from taking over the operational data of its rival to prevent it from using the data to enhance its market position.
This requirement allows the CCCS to retain the ability to require Grab to “divest some of Uber’s assets it has acquired to another firm”, as part of directions the watchdog may issue if it finds the merger has infringed the Competition Act.
If found to be anti-competitive, the commission has the power to order it to be “unwound or modified”. — TODAY