Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has declared war on Uber and said the ride-hailing app no longer exists in Turkey.
Erdoğan made a statement on Friday night after İstanbul taxi drivers called for the service to be banned.
“Something called Uber or Muber has developed; that business is over now. There is no longer any such thing… We already have a taxi system. Where did it come from? It may exist in Europe, but I don’t care,” Erdoğan said in an iftar (fast breaking) speech on Friday, weighing in on a heated, months-long dispute between yellow taxi and Uber drivers.
“The governor has all the authority on this issue. Our interior minister has given the order … The traffic police will crack down on them and will do what is necessary. We will not let the taxi drivers be exploited,” he added.
President Erdoğan’s comments come after taxi drivers in İstanbul put pressure on the government to have Uber banned, saying it was providing an illegal service. Erdoğan, who is running for re-election in three weeks, is backed by the main taxi associations.
A new regulation was recently announced by the Turkish government that makes it more difficult for drivers to register with Uber and also threatens a two-year ban for violations.
According to a report by Germany’s Deutsche Welle (DW), Uber has said that it is committed to working in Turkey and that it is operating within the law. “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,” it said in a statement issued this week after the new licensing regulations were announced.
Istanbul traffic police have stepped up their inspections to identify Uber vehicles and motorcycles utilizing Scott, an Uber-like ride-sharing app, following President Erdoğan’s comments targeting Uber, according to a report by the Hürriyet Daily News on Sunday.
On Saturday a total of 26 drivers using Uber vehicles and three motorcycles were fined a total of TL 87,174 ($18,743), while 29 passengers in these vehicles were fined TL 9,686 ($2,082).
On May 25 the Turkish government changed a regulation governing road transport and increased the fines applied to D2 certificate holders who illegally serve as taxis. D2 certificates allow private companies to conduct the business of unscheduled, contract-based passenger transportation without fares.
The new regulation foresees that if a driver uses a D2 certificate for other than a taxi business, 50 points will be applied to the driver’s record, which can be canceled with a payment of TL 3,000. A second infraction will lead to a two-year ban on operating under a D2 certificate.
Taxi drivers celebrated the “death of Uber” following the announcement of the regulation. There are almost 5,000 Uber drivers in İstanbul, where they have recently received threats and even been assaulted by taxi drivers.
İstanbul has some 17,400 official yellow taxis operating, but critics say Uber has managed to gain a foothold because of their poor quality service and overcharging. Yellow cab drivers in their turn accuse Uber of being “pirates” who are stealing their livelihood.