Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who faces an election in three weeks, has taken aim at ride-hailing app Uber in a speech delivered at a dinner in Istanbul.
“There is no such thing anymore. We have our own cab system,” said Erdogan. “They say Europe has it, who cares? We will decide on this ourselves. Our interior ministry gave the orders. Traffic police will tackle this situation and do what is necessary.”
Erdogan’s criticism comes in the wake of protests from local taxi drivers in Istanbul over Uber drivers undercutting their services. Istanbul is home to about 15 million people and accommodates roughly 17,400 taxis.
Local taxi drivers have also proclaimed Uber is providing an illegal service. In efforts to placate some of the critics, regulatory measures that make it more difficult to obtain a transport license have recently been introduced. Anyone found to be operating in violation of the new measures could face a two-year ban.
According to a report in Bloomberg, it costs the average Uber driver 3,550 liras per year for a D-2 license, while traditional taxi plates can cost upwards of 1.68 million liras ($360,000).
Similar grievances have been voiced in capital cities across the world. While Uber’s application in 2012 for its first permit in London went smoothly, its license to operate in the UK’s capital was recently revoked by Transport for London (TfL).
TfL has stated Uber is not “fit and proper” to hold a private hire license. Despite this, its service remains operational in London and Uber’s appeal will be heard between 25 – 29th June.
“If this decision stands, it will put more than 40,000 licensed drivers out of work and deprive Londoners of a convenient and affordable form of transport,” said Tom Elvidge, Uber’s General Manager for London.
Uber generated $11.3 billion from passengers in Q1 of 2018 and the taxi market in Istanbul is rumoured to be worth $1.5 billion per year.
In response to the development, an Uber spokesperson told Deutsche Welle, “We want to work in cooperation with all the relevant stakeholders to improve transportation options in Turkey and we are committed long-term to Turkey, to the end, as a loyal partner.”