Will GrabBike face same legal challenge as Uber in Vietnam?

09:03 | 03/12/2014
People in Ho Chi Minh City can now easily grab a xe om, or motorbike taxi, with their smartphone after GrabTaxi added the new service to its fast-growing taxi-booking app last week.

But whether the new service, dubbed GrabBike, will face the samelegal challenge as ridesharing app Uber remains to be seen.

GrabTaxi, developed by a Malaysia-based startup, allows passengers to find the nearest taxi in less than a minute with just two taps on their smartphone.

All information related to the driver and the booked taxi, including their name, the plate number, the phone number, as well as the estimated fare, is made known to the passengers before they get in the cab.

The GrabBike service, officially launched on November 27, has just the same function: it allows people to find the nearest xe om and get the full knowledge of who is going to give them a ride, and how much they will have to pay.

The new feature is included in the existing GrabTaxi app.

“Users can tap away at their smartphone to have a xe om pick them up right where they are,” GrabTaxi said on its Facebook page.

GrabTaxi connects passengers with cabs operated by licensed taxi firms, a key factor that will likely keep it away from legal challenges Uber is facing in Vietnam.

Any individual who has a car can apply to be an Uber driver, which Vietnamese authorities said is against the transport law and regulations.

Drivers are required to provide Uber with the necessary documents to drive and wait for approval, the San Francisco-based firm says on its website.

Once approved, they will receive a phone with the Uber app and officially become an Uber driver, according to the website.

A deputy transport minister asserted on Monday that the Uber service is illegal in the Southeast Asian country.

“Any transport activity which directly charges passengers but does not operate through a registered transport business is against the law on road traffic and decree on automobile transport,” Deputy Minister Nguyen Hong Truong told reporters during a meeting in Hanoi.

GrabBike’s driver policy is apparently similar to that of Uber.

“Anyone can become a GrabBike driver, from white-collar workers to students,” GrabTaxi said on its website.

Interested motorbike drivers are encouraged to send their applications to GrabTaxi to join what the company has admitted is still “a modest fleet of GrabBike drivers.”

If anyone can become a GrabBike driver, the situation will be the same as the case of Uber. Vietnamese authorities are now demanding that Uber drivers be members of licensed transport businesses.

Local authorities have so far made no comment on the xe om booking service.

A GrabTaxi representative told a Ho Chi Minh City-based newspaper that Vietnam is the first market to have the GrabBike service.

Developed by two Harvard Business School graduates, GrabTaxi was launched in Malaysia in 2012 as MyTeksi, and then expanded to Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

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