/ By Roy Goldenberg and Liat Ron/
The competition over Israeli passengers is one facet of the very public battle between Israeli taxi hailing service GetTaxi and US-based rival Uber. But the real asset over which the two are ultimately fighting, is the drivers. Uber, the leading world player in taxi apps, recently arrived in Israel, and knows very well that in order to succeed, it needs to recruit as many drivers as possible, as quickly as possible. While GetTaxi already surpassed its 3, 000 driver target long ago, so long as Uber does not succeed in attracting enough drivers, the service’s availability to passengers will be low, which will harm the app’s ability to reach the masses.
The close fought race for drivers is now reaching the Antitrust Authority, headed by David Gilo. Sources inform ”Globes” that the Antitrust Authority approached GetTaxi and Uber recently, in order to obtain documents to investigate claims that GetTaxi attempted to block Uber’s entrance to Israel. These claims are based on GetTaxi’s activities following the arrival of its competitor in the domestic market.
Before the service was launched in Israel, employees of the local Uber office claimed that, similar to company’s policies abroad, they allow their drivers to continue working with other taxi stations as well – both physical ones and virtual ones, like GetTaxi.
Surprisingly, GetTaxi also decided to adopt an open policy, and to allow its drivers to work with Uber as well, as of the start of July. But a month and a half later, Get Taxi management changed its mind, and demanded exclusivity from its drivers – us or them.
The company issued a letter to its drivers that it had decided to reverse its stance, and accused Uber of attempting to “steal” its drivers. According to GetTaxi, Uber Israel’s staff ordered hundreds of GetTaxi cabs, and, on the rides, tried to convince the drivers to leave, and to work with Uber. This is similar to the strategies Uber employed against GetTaxi at the beginning of this year at their home-base, in New York City, against GetTaxi’s local operation, called Gett.
Sources close to the Antitrust Authority have said that the claims against GetTaxi are based on the company’s behavior on the day of Uber’s Israel launch, and assert that GetTaxi banned its drivers who had started to work with Uber from continuing to work with the Israeli service. According to the claim, they did this by ordering cabs from Uber, and when they saw that some of the drivers were also GetTaxi drivers, they disabled the special GetTaxi tablets in their vehicles, and called them in to the company offices for “a talk.”
Whether or not GetTaxi operated as it should have, charges of blocking a competitor’s entry into the local market are very serious, as we know from the Cadbury Chocolate affair, when Cadbury tried to enter the Israeli market in 2003, but its local rival, Elite, used every resource at its disposal to block it from entering.
The Antitrust Authority has confirmed that it is conducting a preliminary investigation. GetTaxi and Uber both confirmed that they had been contacted by the authority.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news – www.globes-online.com