Egyptian court ban on Uber, Careem may go into effect 'within weeks': Lawyer

Ayat Al Tawy , Wednesday 21 Mar 2018

A file photo for Uber application in India in 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's Administrative Court on Tuesday issued an order banning taxi-hailing services Uber and Careem from operating in the country, with lawyer representing taxi drivers saying the government may take up to a month to implement the decision.

The case against the two companies was filed in February 2017 by a group of traditional taxi drivers, who accused the services of violating the traffic law by using privately-owned vehicles for commercial purposes. The case was filed against the two operators as well as the government.

Judicial sources had told Ahram Online on Tuesday that the court decision would immediately go into effect and that companies must cease their services pending a final ruling.

The verdict can still be appealed before Egypt's Higher Administrative Court.

Abdellatif Waked, Uber Egypt’s general manager, said in comments emailed to Ahram Online on Tuesday that the San Francisco-based company intends to appeal the court decision.

“We respect the rulings of the Egyptian judiciary, and cannot comment in detail on ongoing legal proceedings. However, we will appeal this decision, and continue to be available in Egypt," he said.

"It is important to clarify that today’s verdict does not mean suspending the operations of Uber in Egypt," Waked added.

Hours earlier, the Dubai-based Careem said in a brief statement on Facebook that it has not officially been notified about the ban, and that its operations in the country are continuing as normal.

Khaled El-Gamal, a lawyer representing the taxi drivers, said on Wednesday that the government may take around a month to put the court decision into effect.

"The court must issue an official document on the ruling, signed by judges, to be presented to the government, to move accordingly to suspend the companies' operation and ban their apps, which might take around four weeks," he said.

The ride-hailing smartphone applications had sparked several protests from cab drivers in Cairo over their use of private vehicles to transport commuters, which they say violates traffic regulations.

Taxi drivers have been angered because they are losing clients to both services, as many people are opting to use the two apps to commute in the capital and other cities.

Uber, first launched in San Francisco seven years ago, began operating in Egypt in November 2014. The service is now operating in more than 80 countries.

Its rival Careem operates across 13 countries and more than 90 cities in the Middle East and Asia. It also launched in Egypt in 2014.

Uber Egypt's General Manager Waked said on Tuesday that his company has provided "more than 150,000 economic opportunities in Egypt in 2017 alone," and has over the past two years been working with the Egyptian government to set up a "ridesharing framework."

"We will do all we can to ensure millions of Egyptians can continue to enjoy the benefits of on-demand transportation," he said.

Last year, Egypt's cabinet approved a transportation bill allowing and regulating the operations of the two ride-hailing companies. The law has been passed on to Egypt's State Council for a final legal review.

In late 2017, Uber announced it would make investments of $20 million over the next five years in its support centre in Cairo, saying Egypt is one of its fastest-growing markets.

Uber had 2 million users and employed 60,000 drivers in Egypt in 2016, the company's Middle East and Africa chief Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty told Reuters in October.

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