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What Could a Protest of Taxi Drivers in Lisbon and Jakarta Possibly Have in Common? Uber!

Taxi from Lisbon, Portugal. Photo: Manuel Correia (cc)

Taxi from Lisbon, Portugal. Photo: Manuel Correia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Juliana Harsianti also contributed to this post.

As a platform, Uber has provided an alternative to the car-riding public in many countries, but it has also earned the ire of taxi drivers and other public transport operators who feel threatened by it. Some of those who believe that Uber is hurting the local economy have even organized protests across the world. Recently, protests against Uber were launched in both Portugal and Indonesia.

Protests in 3 cities of Portugal

Taxi drivers from the three main Portuguese cities—Faro, Lisbon, and Porto—gathered together for a massive rally against Uber. Thousands of taxi drivers took to the streets to express their concern about the company's work.

About 3,500 taxi drivers protested against Uber in Lisbon, Porto, and Faro

The drivers’ main grievance is that Uber has no license to operate as a passenger transportation business in Portugal, yet it continues to offer its service to the public. Many taxi drivers say they felt tricked when they lost customers to Uber. Thus, they decided to hold a protest.

The protest, however, got the attention of the international media for an entirely wrong reason. News about the mass rally trended because of a violent incident featuring taxi drivers and a photojournalist who was also caught in the middle of the confusion and ended up in the hospital after being bashed by infuriated taxi drivers. The organizers of the Taxi Drivers’ Protest against Uber said they deeply regretted the incident with the journalist.

In the end, it seems the protests are only making Uber more popular: its Portuguese app recently became the most downloaded app in the country.

Here is the result of the protest (Uber app most downloaded in the Portuguese ranking for the day)

The protest activity also made some Portuguese citizens want to know more about the Uber service, and many were tempted to try it:

I thought @Uber_Lisboa ended for legal reasons. Taxi drivers just alerted me of the contrary, now I really want to try it!

Before this massive protest, Uber was prohibited from operating in Portugal as ordered by a court in Lisbon. However, the company has continued to run its business, according to its website.

Reacting to the court decision banning the service, a group of citizens launched an online petition requesting that Uber be allowed to operate in the country.

Three days before the taxi drivers’ demonstration, the Portuguese government asked the European Union and the European Parliament for help in regulating the company. The main issue Portuguese officials want to settle is whether Uber is an online service delivery platform or a passenger transportation company.

In the meantime, tourists are the ones who suffer most. Getting an Uber service at the Lisbon airport has become dangerous since Portuguese taxi drivers are now patrolling the area to drive away Uber cars.

The video below shows a group of taxi drivers preventing an Uber car from transporting a tourist:

Protest Against Uber in Indonesia

Taxi in Jakarta. Photo: Celica21gtfour (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Taxi in Jakarta. Photo: Celica21gtfour (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Some cities in Indonesia have also recently seen protests against Uber. As in Portugal, taxi drivers in Bandung and Jakarta in Indonesia feel that Uber is undermining their livelihood.

But Uber has proven popular among the public who noticed that regular taxis usually charge higher rates. “The consumer now has more choices and then gets more benefit,” said Ficky, one of the Uber riders in Indonesia.

Furthermore, passengers seem to appreciate that Uber cars are usually bigger and more comfortable.

A few months after Uber was launched in Indonesia, some licensed taxi operators filed a police complaint in Jakarta and Bandung. The petitioners claimed that Uber prices were low because the company wasn't paying the right amount of taxes to the government.

There were a total of 9 taxi companies that joined the protest and filed the report to the police. In Bandung and Jakarta, the local governments ruled that Uber was illegally operating as a public transport service. Then, a joint task force was formed among the local governments, district police, and Ministry of Transportation to halt the operations of Uber as a taxi service. Ipung Purnomo of Jakarta Police said:

In order to protect the safety of the people, we decided to forbid Uber in some cities. This decision is based on the rule that forbids using private cars as a means of public transportation.

The protests in both Portugal and Indonesia show that in many countries, online platforms like Uber, though offering cheaper rides and more convenience, face both the displeasure of local taxi drivers and regulatory challenges. The regulation of services like Uber can directly affect local businesses and ordinary citizens.

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