Uber ‘finished’ in Turkey says Erdogan

Turkey’s president Recep Erdogan has said Uber is “finished” in Turkey, following pressure from Istanbul cab drivers who said it was providing an illegal service.

About 17400 taxis operate in the country’s capital and they have been calling for the ride hailing app to be banned, saying it threatened their business.

Tensions have risen sharply in the capital, which is home to about a fifth of Turkey’s population of 81 million, since the company launched there in 2012.

The statement comes after new regulations were announced tightening the country’s requirements for people wanting to work in the transport sector, particularly making it tougher for drivers to register with Uber and introducing a two year ban for violations.

In a statement last week President Erdogan seemed to imply that the ban was because of the company’s Western foundations.

“This thing called Uber emerged,” he said. “That business is finished. That does not exist anymore,”

“We have our taxi system. Where does [Uber] come from? It is used in Europe, I do not care about that. We will decide by ourselves,” added Mr Erdogan, who is running for re-election in three weeks.

At the Ramadan dinner he said “the orders” were being given by the interior ministry.

Uber currently runs under a license that costs much less than taxi plates (about $760 US instead of $360,000), but Erdogan argued that it was “not possible” to offer a taxi alternative with that lower-cost option. The huge disparity in cost has seen considerable battles with taxis in the capital and the controversial company.

After the announcement was made by the transport licensing body Uber said they wanted to work with all sides and be “a true partner to Turkey for the long term.”

Speaking to Bloomberg one operator for the company said it was just an “election pledge” that did not carry much weight. Uber’s service continues to operate in Turkey with no announcements made following the court hearing of yesterday (4th June). Earlier this year, Istanbul’s taxi drivers took Uber to court accusing it of hindering their business and operating illegally.

Another ban would compound problems for Uber, with a court hearing in London scheduled for later this month. It has recently dodged bans in the Czech Republic and Egypt.

If there is a ban, it would compound Uber’s ongoing problems finding acceptance abroad. It recently dodged bans in places like the Czech Republic and Egypt and now finds itself up against not only the established industry but a nationalist government keen to highlight its non-European credentials and its support for local businesses.

Uber had no immediate response to his comment but said that about 2,000 yellow cab drivers use its app to find customers, while another 5,000 work for UberXL, using large vans to transport groups to parties, or take people with bulky luggage to Istanbul’s airports.

It declined to reveal the number of Uber users in Turkey, where it operates in Istanbul, and in the resort towns of Bodrum and Cesme in the summer months.

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