BELGRADE (Reuters) – Taxi drivers in the Serbian capital Belgrade blocked the city centre on Tuesday to protest the impact of a ride-sharing service on their business and to call on the government to ban it.
They later cleared their blockade after talks with Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic, who convinced them to “have faith in [state] institutions,” according to a protest leader.
The taxi drivers want the government to ban Car:Go, a local version of Uber, arguing its drivers are not legally registered to transport people and they do not meet strict regulations set for taxis.
Car:Go has used legal loopholes to operate such as registering as an NGO where some users of its app are passenger members who “compensate” driver members for their services.
“They are looking at us as if we are some sort of garbage in this city … we want to work,” said 50-year-old taxi driver Dragan Glisovic.
Car:Go was launched in 2015 and now has about 1,000 drivers and 120,000 registered clients. Their fares are often cheaper than those of regular taxis.
In a statement, Car:Go’s director Vuk Guberinic said the company will continue to operate and asked for an overhaul of existing laws to allow ride-sharing services.
“If the state regulates bakeries the way it regulates taxis we would be eating stale bread every day. Just as stale bread cannot be eaten, so obsolete laws cannot be used, ” Guberinic said.
(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)