Sat, 04 Jul 2015

Jakarta, – In recent weeks, five Uber drivers were arrested by the Jakarta police, who was working together with the Organization of Land Transportation Operators (Organda). Organda Jakarta, which organizes all forms of land transportation in the capital city, has accused Uber of multiple breaches of the law, ranging from Uber’s lack of operation permit to tax evasion. The drivers were held for almost 24 hours as witnesses, but later released.

According to Shafruhan Sinungan, Organda Jakarta’s chairman, there are at least five points that the city administration and the police must investigate. First is regarding Uber’s general permit to operate in Indonesia. Sinungan said that according to Law No. 22/2009, Uber must set up either a private limited company (Perseroan Terbatas / PT) or a koperasi as its legal entity. Second is about special permits. It appears that Uber has so far failed to fulfill the criteria of a public transportation company, as set by the Ministry of Transportation in 2003 and Jakarta’s local government in 1991. This failure means Uber cannot legally identify itself as a taxi, which leads directly to the third allegation: fraud. Sinungan accused Uber of tricking its passengers, as they believe that Uber is a taxi company while it is not.

The fourth case is regarding Uber’s payment system. Currently, Uber transfers a fifth of its fee to an overseas account despite the lack of a legal entity in Indonesia. Sinungan believes that it could be an indication that the payments might be an effort of both tax evasion and money laundering. The last issue is about Uber’s responsibility. According to Indonesian law, public transportation companies must be responsible for their passengers’ safety. However, without a legal entity, forcing Uber to take responsibility might prove tricky should an accident happen.

Sinungan’s allegations are partly supported by Jakarta’s governor, Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama. Ahok has stated that in order for Uber to have an audience with him, first Uber must promise to establish an official company in Indonesia, to ensure that it will pay taxes and obey all Indonesian laws and regulations. Other than the most recent case in Jakarta, Organda Bandung has also formally protested against the app-based taxi service. Uber’s entry has also been met with harsh rejections and lawsuits in many countries, including India, Thailand, South Korea, Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain.

The drivers have repeatedly stated their innocence and dismissed the investigation as a case of business jealousy, because Uber’s fare is lower than that of registered taxi companies. They also dodged the permit issue on mere technicalities, arguing that since Uber has never been a taxi from the first place, there is no need for it to obtain permits. However, so far they have failed to convincingly rebut the mounting allegations against them.

Uber’s fate is exactly the opposite of its motorcycle counterpart’s, Go-Jek. Go-Jek is a locally-developed app for which customers can request ojek (motorcycle taxi) drivers to help them transport people or goods. The service has won the people’s sympathy after reports that its drivers were harassed by other ojek drivers whose usual passengers have started using Go-Jek due to the latter’s higher level of safety and comfort. Such cases have happened multiple times and in various locations, and reports have gone viral on social media. Go-Jek has been well-received thanks to its ability to maintain a high standard of service, obtaining the satisfaction of its passengers.

Although Go-Jek is also on the receiving end of Organda’s protests, it enjoys Ahok’s support. Go-Jek is a registered company, and Ahok believes that it has the capacity to improve the efficiency of ojek drivers. Under Go-Jek’s ordering system, the ojek drivers’ time is maximized because they don’t need to wait for their passengers. Plus, the presence of an official company will guarantee proper handling of traffic accidents and increase the city’s income through taxes. It is impossible to tax the old-fashioned ojek because transactions are done in cash without any form of documentation. Ahok has also said that Organda should be more mindful of the huge number of people who relied on ojek for their daily commute, and the fact that those people have been enjoying better service thanks to Go-Jek.