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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 September 2018

Careem, Uber hail Egypt law regulating ride-sharing services

Egypt's parliament provisionally approved draft law that imposes new fees and data sharing requirements

Egypt's parliament approved a law to govern popular ride-hailing apps Uber and Careem, which had faced legal challenges. The new law stablishes operating licenses and fees. It requires licensed companies to store user data for 180 days. Eman Helal / AP
Egypt's parliament approved a law to govern popular ride-hailing apps Uber and Careem, which had faced legal challenges. The new law stablishes operating licenses and fees. It requires licensed companies to store user data for 180 days. Eman Helal / AP

Dubai-based company Careem and its American rival Uber hailed a new law approved by Egyptian lawmakers to govern ride-sharing apps after the companies faced a series of legal setbacks in the region. The Egyptian parliament provisionally approved a draft law on Monday that will impose new fees and data sharing requirements on the popular apps, according to the state-run Mena news agency. The new law requires licensed companies to store user data for 180 days and share it with the Egyptian authorities on request.

The “vote and passage of the ride-hailing law marks a remarkable step for Egypt, Careem and our region,” a Careem spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “It is the first time in any of Careem's operating markets that a regulatory framework for ride-hailing has emerged from a consultative legislative and parliamentary process.”

The move to legalise ride-sharing apps follows Uber and Careem appeal of a court ruling to halt their Egypt operations in March as a result of a law suit by a group of taxi companies. It marks a win for the companies, potentially ending litigation proceedings that may bar them from operating in the Arab world’s most populous nation. Egypt is Uber’s biggest market in the Middle East with four million users and 157,000 drivers and is one of the leading markets for its regional rival Careem.

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Careem and Uber drivers in Egypt set to continue operating

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Careem has three million riders in Egypt and has based its call centre in Cairo to serve the entire region. It worked with the government to create more than 100,000 jobs for Egyptians, it said.

“In passing the law, the Egyptian government and parliament sends out a strong signal that Egypt continues to be open for business and investment and is a hub for innovation and the technology ecosystem,” Careem said.

Uber said it will continue working with Egypt’s prime minister and cabinet in the next months as the law is finalised.

“This is a major step forward for the ride-sharing industry as Egypt becomes one of the first countries in the Middle East to pass ridesharing regulations,” an Uber spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

The law states that ride-sharing companies must get a five-year renewable licence costing a maximum of 30 million Egyptian pounds (Dh6.21m), according to the Mena state agency.

An initial draft of the bill had required the companies to provide real-time data sharing but that evoked opposition because of privacy concerns and was amended to providing data on request.

If the current version of the law is amended in the coming months to reintroduce the earlier requirements, Uber will once again vocalise its past concerns on the “worrisome provisions,” a company source said.

Uber has faced legal and regulatory challenges to its operations in countries around the world as taxi providers disputed their presence. It has been forced to shut down its operations in Denmark and Hungary last year. On June 25, it will face a critical court battle over its licence to operate in London, its biggest market outside the US.

Careem is also facing legal challenges regionally. A court in Jordan has banned its services in the capital Amman last month. The country’s telecoms regulator said the app was blocked until the company obtains a license.

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