(photo credit: REUTERS)
Antitrust Commissioner Michal Halperin on Wednesday called on the government to advance ride-sharing, a service made popular by companies such as Uber and Lyft, to compete with taxi cabs.
Though Uber operates in Israel, the UberX service that allows regular people to accept payments for giving rides remains illegal. Transportation Minister Israel Katz remains a staunch opponent of opening the market to such services, which often offer transport at cheaper prices than traditional taxis.
“We cannot allow the interests of taxi-owners to prevent or delay changes to the existing regulatory policy, which aims to open the transportation sector to competition and implement modern technologies that provide clear increases to well-being,” Halperin said in a letter to the Transportation Ministry.
The letter followed a regulatory review carried out by the Antitrust Authority, which found regulation throttles innovation and competition.
Earlier this year, Katz sparred with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the subject, following a meeting between Netanyahu and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Ride-sharing services such as UberX have disrupted traditional taxi companies. Drivers in Israel are required to undergo expensive and time-consuming courses and testing before being allowed to drive a taxi, and see the entrance of unregulated drivers as unfair.
In many places, ride-sharing has broken up the grip of taxi companies and unions, but also tanked the investments that taxi owners made under existing structures.
Katz has said that the government would have to compensate current drivers in the range of NIS 8 billion-NIS 9b. in the event that ride-sharing became legal.
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