Several drivers working for Heetch, a French competitor to the popular taxi app Uber, have been convicted by district courts in the Stockholm area.
Not a traditional taxi
Heetch enables private individuals who do not have a legal taxi license, to connect with customers via an app. Swedish law requires a taxi license and a taximeter. To bypass this, customers instead donate money to the driver as payment. Afterwards, the drivers rate the customers based on their donations.
In December 2017, Swedish authorities called Heetch's taxi services illegal. In response, Heetch embarked upon a new offensive in Stockholm by launching Heetch Pro.
Heetch Pro drivers are required to have a valid taxi license and traffic authorisation. The pro service is also available 24 hours a day, instead of just at the weekends.
To attract drivers to the company, they offer a better revenue distribution than Uber. To attract customers, Heetch compete by aiming to offer a lower price.
Plan to keep the original Heetch
Despite the launch of Heetch Pro, Heetch did not intend to also cancel the original Heetch service.
Heetch Country Manager Hicham Larhnimi told Breakit - “We inform our drivers that the regulations are outdated and that it poses a risk. We want the government to come forward with a proposal for a new taxi and car sharing laws.”
In February 2018, Heetch paused their services after one of their drivers was arrested and sentenced for breach of the taxi laws. Again, Larhnimi stated that he believes that Swedish law needs to be updated.
“The Transport Agency must comply with the outdated regulations. You need to define the economy sharing concept in the law”, he declared.
Larhnimi went on to explain how Heetch had purposefully kept their opening hours to evenings and weekends. They had also marketed the service to young people, so as to not compete with traditional taxi services.
Requesting new regulations
During the pause, Heetch instead referred their customers to their new Heetch Pro service. In a press release, the company wrote about the downtime and stated that Heetch services would continue when the regulations are updated.
Larhnimi believes that there is political will on both sides to change the regulations. However, he also thinks no politician really wants to take the matter on.
Now, in November 2018, a total of nine drivers have been convicted for either unlawful taxi traffic or breach of the taxi traffic laws. In all cases, sanctions have been 40 or 50 daily fines.
One driver has been cleared on all charges by the Stockholm District Court. In that one case, the court ruled that the customer did not have to pay for the trip. “The rules are still unclear, as the ruling of the court clearly shows”, said Larhnimi.
Several more Heetch drivers may be on the way to the district court, according to a report by Di Digital. Police announced earlier that they had begun investigations against about 25 drivers in total.
It is unclear what Heetch will do next. Larhnimi stated - “We have done everything we could and we still believe that drivers should be able to cover their costs. When we ceased operations with Heetch, we also launched a very respected taxi service that complies with today's regulations.”
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