Taxify app hits roadblocks in Riga

The Municipal Police of Rīga is expanding the fight against unlicensed drivers using the Taxify app. Recently, a cabby supplementing his income with the taxi app conceived in neighboring Estonia had his car confiscated by the authorities, reported LTV7's Segodnya Vecherom Tuesday.

In late January a driver was requested using the Estonian taxi app, only to find himself caught without a licence by the Rīga Municipal Police.

"A car with regular license plates answered our call. It means it had no right to provide taxi services.

The procedure, from the driver's end, did not differ in any way from regular taxi services. Even though it is not in our jurisdiction, there was another violation as documents testifying to the deal weren't provided," said Edgars Rudzītis, acting head of the Central Office of the Rīga Municipal Police.

That is to say, the driver did not provide a receipt. After the drive, the police only received an email about a successful transaction, without info on the amount paid, the vehicle's plate numbers, or the name of the service provider.

The police decided it amounts to doing business without a licence, a violation punishable with fine of up to €700 and - perhaps with more serious consequences for the driver - the confiscation of the car. 

Juris Krūmiņš, the head of Taxify in Latvia  said that one fifth of those who use Taxify are private drivers. However it does not mean they're providing services illegally.

"Private drivers pay taxes. All of them have registered their business activities. We are prepared to cooperate with the Revenue Service to prove as much," he said.

Taxify and similar apps like Uber are popular across Europe and the US. In places, authorities are trying to restrict these apps, and some of those affected - like taxi drivers, in the case of Uber - have taken to the streets to protest.

That's not the case in Latvia just yet, but the Passenger Carrier Association points out that these services could carry dangers.

"If it's a professional activity, the driver is a professional too. The vehicle is inspected at least twice a year and the driver is liable for it and can have his licence revoked.

As for the white plates - I don't know who is liable for that," Leopolds Muižnieks, the head of the taxi department at the Passenger Carrier Association, told LTV7. 

Police say that inspections are often and don't take place exclusively over the internet. A total of 800 violations were recorded in the Center district last year - a high figure by any means, as there are only about 2,000 taxis in the Latvian capital. 

Taxify provides services to taxi companies and passengers. It operates in large cities of several countries, mostly in Eastern Europe. In Latvia, it's available in Valmiera and Rīga. 

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