Uber Israel indicted for operating without a license

The charges target the app’s Uber Night service, which allows users to drive passengers at late hours when public transit is unavailable

A passenger uses the Uber app to order a ride in the ride-sharing company's December 2016 ad. (Screen capture/YouTube)
A passenger uses the Uber app to order a ride in the ride-sharing company's December 2016 ad. (Screen capture/YouTube)

The Transportation Ministry handed down an indictment Tuesday at the Tel Aviv Traffic Court against Uber Israel for operating without a license.

The indictment against the ride-sharing company culminated a covert investigation by a special unit of the Transportation Ministry that spanned several months.

During the investigation, members of the Transportation Ministry pretended to be typical passengers ordering rides with the app.

The charges targeted the ride-sharing company’s Uber Night service, which has been functioning in a pilot phase in Israel for a number of months, according to Hebrew media reports.

Line of taxis waiting for passengers (photo credit: by Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Illustrative: Line of taxis waiting for passengers (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

The feature allows private car owners registered with Uber to drive other passengers during night hours when public transit is not available. The pilot has only been running in Tel Aviv and just on weekends.

Instead of the typical charge app users are required to pay, the fee is referred to as a “reimbursement” and covers drivers expenses, such as gas. From the reimbursement, Uber charges drivers a 25 percent commission.

The pilot program resembles Uber X, the company’s prized service that is used worldwide, allowing passengers to order rides from registered drivers at typically cheaper prices than taxi services.

Uber X has been blocked in Israel, largely due to immense pressure placed on the government by taxi drivers.

While similar ride-sharing apps, such as Moovit Carpool and Waze Carpool, are permitted in Israel; the Transportation Ministry has singled out Uber Night because other services connect passengers with drivers that are already on their way to an intended destination.

Uber has insisted, since the start of the investigation, that its drivers are not allowed to profit from their services.

The Transportation Ministry maintains that Uber Night violates its regulations that prohibit a person from charging passengers without an appropriate license.

The indictment against Uber is on three main counts: Non-compliance with the duty to possess a business license, non-compliance with the duty to possess an operating license, and transporting passengers for pay.

The charges against Uber in the Israeli court system are far from the only ones the corporation is facing. The ride-sharing company is involved in a host of investigations, lawsuits and regulatory checks in countries around the world.

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