EXPLAINER: What you should know about the new (stricter) e-hailing regulations

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Government intends to be stricter on e-hailing services, Uber and Bolt, members of Parliament heard on Tuesday.

The National Assembly considered the National Land Transport Amendment Bill, which introduces regulations for e-hailing service providers. Parliament's portfolio committee on transport also tabled their report on the bill.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula told media at an earlier briefing that the bill allows the public transport sector to respond the needs of consumers.

At the same briefing, special advisor in the department Lawrence Venkile said that when the existing National Land Transport Act was promulgated in 2009, e-hailing was not yet a concept and the law had not made provision for operating licences for these services.

The amendments are now the country's response to the evolution of the markets, he said.

The minister has touted the bill as possibly being a solution to end ongoing violent conflicts between metered taxi drivers and Uber and Bolt drivers.

"The advent of globalisation has brought advantages and disadvantages," Mbalula said.

While Uber has helped people realise their social aspirations, through mobility, it has also presented "stiff competition" for metered taxis, he argued. "Metered taxis are governed by laws, they can't just go everywhere in the country dropping people. They operate within specific zones," he said.

"Now here is a disruptive app (Uber) that can drop you anywhere and bring food to your doorstep," Mbalula said.

Government wants to regulate the industry to make sure everyone is in agreement. He said he had met with the metered taxi industry and e-hailing service providers who are "on board" with the process.

Here's what you need to know about the amendments, as they relate to e-hailing services.

What is the purpose of the National Land Transport Act of 2009?

The Act was intended to drive transformation and restructuring of the national land transport system, initiated by the National Land Transport Transition Act of 2000.

Its promulgation was done in haste to accommodate the bus rapid transit systems ahead of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

At the time, Parliament noted that the Act would have to be revised at some point to fully account for relevant policies and to address other problems that would arise from its implementation. A number of technical issues have since come to light, which has led to the need to amend it.

What are e-hailing services?

The bill introduces a set of new definitions, including that of an electronic hailing service or e-hailing service.

These services enable passengers to hail a vehicle using a technology-enabled application. Examples include Uber and Bolt (the latter was previous known as Taxify).

What does the bill say about e-hailing services?

The bill now includes a new section on e-hailing services.

Most notably, operators who are permitted to use an e-hailing platform without having an operating licence, will be liable for a fine valued to as much as R100 000.

What are the financial implications of the bill?

The bill clarifies roles and powers and is not expected to have additional financial implications.

What happens next?

The bill is expected to be debated in the National Assembly next week.

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