Uber abandons surge pricing in Jakarta taxi protest violence
Tue 22 Mar 2016
Ride-sharing titan Uber has had some difficult PR decisions to make during an eventful protest by taxi drivers in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta – and has suspended ‘surge’ pricing in the light of actual conflict breaking out during the demonstration.
The scene is a familiar one for the $60 billion San Francisco-based company, whose uninvited incursions into cities with existing taxi infrastructure has caused analogous scenes in Paris, London, Rio de Janeiro, Brussels, Warsaw, Sao Paolo, Melbourne and various Italian and Australian cities (and space does not permit us to review Asia’s stance here).
The taxi protest of the last 24 hours follow the familiar template, as convoys of threatened taxi-drivers form up to clog the central city routes, in a follow-up to protests from Jakarta’s public transport drivers last week. As usual the demands from the public transport workers were that Uber either fall into local regulations or be banned from operating its services in the city.
Uber is not the only invader being protested at Jakarta today, as the demonstration is also aimed at the Singapore-based GrabTaxi service, which less than two days ago announced a powerful new partnership with Indonesian real estate behemoth Lippo Group, in which it will take over a considerable amount of the company’s delivery requirements.
Feelings were running high enough in today’s protest that even different factions of the existing taxi companies in the city were apparently turning against each other on occasion, with one Blue Bird taxi reported to have been wrecked during altercations. Residents on Twitter are also reported to have said that ‘scab’ taxi drivers were being targeted and assaulted by their colleagues, and that cycle-based ride-sharing factions such as GrabBike and Go-Jek also came under attack in the conflicts.
In response to the high feelings, Uber posted a Tweet announcing the suspension of surge pricing for the day. Surge pricing is the primary motivation for Uber drivers to make themselves available at times of high demand, since it calculates and raises rates for rides; but since the 9.6 million residents of Jakarta are a little short on options and not likely to be in short supply, combined with the notion that profiting off chaos that Uber’s own presence in the city has sparked might be inadvisable from a PR point of view, there are bargains to be had during the Jakartan rush hour today.