World's Governments vs Uber: In South Korea, India

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 8/26/2014 01:30:00 AM
To Gangnam, man, on the double! (wherever that is.)
Libertarians for the most part tout the ride-sharing service Uber as a way to avoid taxis whose need to be government-regulated allows them to charge exorbitant fares. With Uber, anyone who can afford a smartphone and a data plan can use his or her vehicle as a privateer taxicab. Break the monopoly! Or that's how Uber works in theory. In practice, local governments the world over have taken legal action against the app's developers for skirting regulations on who can offer tax services in their jurisdictions. I do not exaggerate when I say it's Uber against the world's officialdom.

Having come to Asia, Uber is under assault after complaints from taxicab services wary of being marginalized by the app. While Uber has not yet established as large a presence as it has in some Western nations, it's best to beat it up before it establishes a foothold. In tech-savvy Seoul--supposedly the most wired city in the world--the local government seeks a ban on Uber. It also plans to develop an official taxi app to counter it by the end of the year:
The Seoul city government said Monday it would seek a ban on a car-hailing smartphone app from Uber Technologies Inc., joining a global battle by municipalities and traditional taxi services against the service.

The local authority said in a statement that Uber is illegal under South Korean law, which forbids fee-paying transport services using private or rented motor vehicles unregistered with the authorities. The city added that it will launch in December an app that will provide similar features to Uber for official taxis, such as geo-location data on cabs nearby, information about them and their drivers, as well as ratings.
In India, Uber has come up against an even more formidable foe: the central bank. Because Uber's payments are handled by an offshore entity, the Reserve Bank of India is using a stipulation that payments-handling mechanisms must be locally based to effectively render Uber illegal:
Credit card rules, another road block for [Uber] which has been described as illegal by city authorities. And what's India done to put the brakes on? Well, the one stepping on the brakes is the RBI [Reserve Bank of India], the central bank.

It's closed a loophole. All actions made on India-issued credit cards have to go through a two-step procedure. For Uber users that means one additional step to the payment system and if they want to comply with the new rules, it would have to change its app or adopt a different model totally.

The actions are free [of obtaining a taxi license] with pretty much with Indian rivals have to do. This is what local taxi companies have been complaining about. [All Uber] payments are collected and transferred to a Dutch bank and the procedure goes against India's [foreign exchange control] regulations and in a way, this is what the RBI is trying to address. 
To be more specific, the RBI regulations in question concern limiting capital flight emanating from foreign exchange transactions:
 "It has come to our notice that there are instances of card not present transactions being effected without the mandated additional authentication validation even where the under lying transactions are essentially taking place between two residents in India," RBI said in its circular issued on Friday. A transaction is considered local where both the purchaser and service provider are in India.

"It is also observed that these entities are evading the mandate of additional authentication by following business models which are resulting in foreign exchange outflow. Such camouflaging and flouting of extant instructions on card security, which has been made possible by merchant transactions being acquired by banks located overseas resulting in an outflow of foreign exchange in the settlement of these transactions, is not acceptable as this is in violation of the directives issued under the Payment and Settlement Systems Act 2007 besides the requirements under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999," the RBI said. 
Also see Quartz discussing the politics behind this move. Talk about having enemies in high places. Unlike Uber and its fans, I am hardly convinced that they are on the right side of technological history. Are taxis the buggy whips of the early 21st century