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Singapore to regulate taxi-booking apps Uber, GrabTaxi

An illustration picture shows the logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone next to the picture of an official German taxi sign

Singapore said on Friday it plans to regulate fast-growing third-party taxi booking services like Uber and GrabTaxi for the first time, capping fees and requiring them to dispatch only licensed cabs and drivers.

Under new rules to take effect in second-quarter 2015, operators of the increasingly popular services based on mobile phone applications will be required to register with Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA). The LTA said the fees charged by the booking services could not exceed those of regular taxi companies.

The LTA is in charge of planning, operating, and maintaining Singapore’s land transport infrastructure and systems.

Singapore is one of the most expensive places in the world to own a private car, and many rely on taxis and public transport to get around. Finding a cab during peak hours and frequent tropical downpours can be difficult, stoking interest in the new taxi apps.

Comfortdelgro Corp is Singapore’s largest traditional taxi company and has its own booking services.

Apps like GrabTaxi, however, offer commuters a choice from taxis closest to their location, regardless of which company operates them. An external executive who handles media queries for GrabTaxi said the company had no immediate comment.

Uber’s booking services in Singapore include high-end UberExec and cheaper UberX cars, along with the options of searching for regular licensed taxis.

Uber said the new regulations only applied to taxis, and would not affect UberExec and UberX, for which the company only partners with already licensed limousine and rental car companies.

“We appreciate that the LTA has acknowledged the benefits our technology brings, and like Uber, is putting the interest and safety of consumers and drivers first, ” Mike Brown, regional general manager of Southeast Asia at Uber, said in a statement.

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