Yahya Uğur, the former head of the Istanbul Taxi Drivers Association, has said that the association did not respond well to the rise of ride-sharing service Uber at the time and instead taxi drivers should have focused on enhancing their own service quality to remain competitive in the business.
The number of pirate cabs in the megacity has boomed to over 5,000 following the ban on Uber, Uğur told Hürriyet newspaper in an interview published on Jan. 6.
“We have conducted a wrong campaign against Uber at the time. We have acted very aggressively. When we took the issue to the court, everyone learned about Uber. The advertisement of Uber was conducted by the taxi drivers who protested [against Uber]. And Uber used this very well. If the taxi drivers had increased their service quality at the time, the number of pirate cabs would not have increased so much. Despite a tax advantage, they could not renew the vehicles at the desired level,” he said.
An Istanbul court in October ruled on unfair competition and banned access to Uber's mobile application in Turkey following a lawsuit opened by the city's taxi drivers association.
About 17,400 licensed taxis operate in Istanbul, home to about a fifth of Turkey’s population of 81 million people, and since Uber entered the country in 2014 tensions have risen sharply.
Uber has quickly become the preferred mode of transportation for Istanbul’s taxi users who have long been fed up with overcharging and smoking cab drivers, who are known in many occasions to pick their customers according to their destinations.
Infuriated by the decline in their customers, taxi drivers staged several street protests against Uber, even sometimes threatening Uber drivers and their customers. The taxi association in 2018 filed a lawsuit against Uber, which led to the termination of its services as of Oct. 16, 2019 via a court order.
The end of Uber has channeled Istabulites to another service: pirate cabs who use the means of Whatsapp to communicate with their customers. This rising service's relatively cheaper prices as well as the low quality standards of official taxi services have increased the demand for pirate cabs in the megacity.
“The police forces cannot conduct regular inspection as they are very busy. Once we determine the advertisements and websites [where pirate cabs offer their service], we notify the relevant authorities. The number of inspections needs to increase,” Eyüp Aksu, the current head of Istanbul Taxi Drivers Association, was quoted as saying by Hürriyet.