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Egypt: Uber Drivers to Be Arrested for Violating the Traffic Law

(Mar. 17, 2016) On March 8, 2016, the head of the Cairo traffic police, Major General Alaa el-Degwy, announced that traffic police will begin a campaign to arrest and detain all Uber drivers. The announcement came after taxi drivers blocked major Cairo streets to protest the presence of Uber in the city. This was not the first protest carried out by taxi drivers against Uber Technologies Inc.; drivers have been protesting the presence of Uber in Cairo for the last four months. According to news reports, Uber applications have become very popular over the past six months among Cairo residents. (Traffic Police: All Uber Drivers Will Be Arrested for Violating the Law, MASRAWY (Mar. 9, 2016) (in Arabic).)

The taxi drivers have filed an official complaint with the department of traffic police against Uber drivers, arguing that Uber drivers have an unfair advantage because they do not have to pay the same kinds of taxes or fees imposed on taxi drivers. (Taxi Drivers Protesting Uber, AL-MASRY AL-YOUM (Mar. 8, 2016) (in Arabic).) Law No. 155 of 1999, amending Law No. 66 of 1973, known as “the Traffic Law,” requires under article 52 that owners of vehicles used in transporting individual pay certain taxes and fees. Moreover, article 54 states that if the owner of the vehicle uses it to transport people without paying the required taxes and fees, the traffic police have the right to confiscate the vehicle until its owner pays those fees and taxes. (Law No. 155 of 1999, 52 AL-JARIDAH AL-RASSMIYAH (Dec. 28, 1999), Ministry of the Interior website (in Arabic).)

Traffic Police Reaction to the Complaint and Response of Uber Clients

In response to the taxi driver complaint, el-Degwy announced that Uber drivers are violating article 52 of the Traffic Law. He also stated that the police in Cairo have begun to confiscate Uber vehicles at checkpoints around Cairo and arrest the drivers for tax evasion. (Traffic Police of Cairo Clarify the Legal Status of Uber Inc., EGYPT NEWS (Mar. 9, 2016) (in Arabic).) Additionally, el-Degwy claimed that further penalties will be imposed on Uber drivers. (Id.) Under article 32 of Law No. 59 of 2014, amending Law No. 66 of 1973, those penalties may include suspension of the driver’s license, confiscation of the vehicle’s registration, and fines. (Law No. 59 of 2014, 26 AL-JARIDAH AL-RASSMIYAH, Court of Cassation website (July 2, 2014) (in Arabic).)

Uber clients in Cairo have dismissed el-Degwy’s announcement and oppose the legal measure adopted by the traffic police against Uber drivers. They have said that taxi drivers often tamper with their meters or pretend that the meter is broken in order to overcharge their clients. Female clients also said that they are afraid of using regular taxis. In contrast with Uber drivers who take anti-harassment classes before they begin their service with Uber, some taxi drivers have verbally sexually harassed women clients in the past. (Maram Mazam, Egypt Taxi Drivers Block Major Cairo Street to Protest Uber, ABC NEWS (Mar. 8, 2016).)

Uber Egypt Reaction and Government Actions

Uber Egypt General Manger Anthony El-Khoury announced that Uber representatives will visit Egyptian officials to find appropriate legal solutions. El-Khoury also said that they are currently working with the Egyptian government to issue a legal instrument that would allow Uber drivers to operate without violating the Traffic Law. (Id.)

A spokesman for the Council of Ministers commented on the recent Uber stand-off. He praised Uber and the services it offers to Egyptian citizens and called for a new piece of legislation to allow Uber to operate legally while paying adequate taxes and fees to the government. (Uber Offers Unique Services to Its Clients?, MASRAWY (Mar. 9, 2016) (in Arabic).)

Following the spokesman’s comments, a ministerial committee including representatives from the Ministries of Justice, the Interior, Transportation, Finance, Investment, and Municipalities was established to draft new legislation to allow Uber to operate legally in Egypt. The draft legislation will be submitted to the Council of Ministers for review in the near future. (A Committee Established to Check the Legal Status of the Uber Company, MASRAWY (Mar. 9, 2016) (in Arabic).)