JAMAICA | Eyebrows raised over New Uber operations in Jamaica
KINGSTON, Jamaica, June 19, 2021 - The United States-based transport company Uber, this week launched its operation in Kingston, Jamaica today and is now allowing Jamaicans to sign up to become drivers or request rides to get from one location within Kingston to another.
The company says that to become an Uber driver, the person must be 21 years of age or older, have a 2001 or newer model year vehicle, and must have a valid driver's license, vehicle registration, vehicle insurance and a profile picture to the company.
Jamaica’s public transport regulation agency, the Transport Authority, says operating an Uber taxi in Jamaica without a public passenger vehicle licence is illegal.
In fact, the Transport Authority says it is in the dark on how the company is operating and whether drivers have the requisite licences.
From the response of the local regulatory agency, there has been very limited communication between Uber and the Transport Authority and the announcement of the company’s presence in Jamaica has become a source of embarrassment for the government.
Corporate Communications Manager at the Transport Authority, Petra-Kene Williams, says the rules cannot be circumvented by stating that the cars are being leased.
She told Radio Jamaica news that "We have observed that Uber has stated that it's using what is called a Vehicle with Driver lease agreement. This is a new designation in the local transportation sector. What we would like to reiterate though is that, irrespective of the terminology you use, once the service that is being provided by Uber functionally is operating as public transportation services, it will require a road licence from the authorities," she explained.
Ms Williams said persons can be prosecuted if they operate through Uber but do not have the requisite road licence. She noted that the operators of Uber were notified of the laws in 2018.
The Transport Authority is awaiting a meeting with the ride-sharing company to discuss the details of its operations in Jamaica.
In the meantime, Opposition Spokesman on Transport Mikael Philips says Uber should be contacted "to find out how it is that they have set up shop in Jamaica without the requisite permits and licence."
Mr. Phillips pointed out that the Opposition was not against "competition" in the transport sector but said "we want to make sure that the travelling public is covered."
He warned commuters "to be very cautious in utilising this service as persons who travel on public transport would be covered by such insurance."
The opposition spokesman said he is surprised that the authorities are in the dark about the conditions under which Uber is operating in Jamaica.
He argued that the government appeared to have "dropped the ball" since it was the Ministry of Transport that initially announced Uber was coming to Jamaica, but the Transport Authority seems to have been left in the dark about the company starting its operations in the country.