The Centre has done well to come up with a set of guidelines for the regulation of app-based taxi aggregators like Ola, Uber, etc. Not only does it give much-needed clarity to these business about compliance, it is also a signal that the government is making efforts to catch-up with disruptive tech-enabled businesses rather than responding with bans. At first glance, the guidelines seem to treat app-based taxi-hailing services at par with regular radio cab services. However, the companies are not required to maintain a fleet nor will be the per unit distance fare be capped, unlike what the Delhi government had suggested, much to the consternation of the taxi-hailing companies.
The government makes it clear though that passenger safety will be the top priority for compliance. Apart from asking them to ensure 24/7 customer helplines, the guidelines spell out a stringent driver verification regime for the aggregators, including a review of the police verification that they provide and maintaining a record of many personal details of the driver. The taxi must be equipped with a permanent GPS system—currently, the likes of Ola cabs only have a mobile phone given to the driver by the aggregator—along with emergency safety buttons. While the aggregators must make the necessary moves to comply with the guidelines, the states too must do their bit to shape the legal compliance ecosystem. In Delhi, for example, the state government had planned to issue a set of rules that, among other things, talked of capping fares. By steering clear of interfering with market mechanisms, while ensuring that passenger safety is given top priority, the Centre has set the tone for the states.