Amid a growing number of ride-hailing regulation being drafted and passed in the Southeast Asia region and around the world, Malaysia seemed set to follow suit. On Tuesday, the amendments to the Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board (CVLB) Act 1987 and the Land Public Transport Act 2010 were tabled by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nancy Shukry proposing law amendments to legalise e-hailing services as a public vehicle, a move to level the playing field between e-hailing and taxi operators.
Under an amendment to the CVLB Act, e-hailing vehicles will be classified as public service vehicles, and the operators would need to obtain an “intermediation business licence” which will be issued by public transport regulator, the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD).
Operators of ride-sharing services who operate e-hailing services without the licence can be fined up to RM500,000, or face a maximum jail term of three years, or both, upon conviction. Those who fail to comply with the licence conditions can be fined between RM1,000 and RM200,000, or sentenced up to two years in jail, or both.
The swift passing of those amendments were heavily anticipated on April 6, the last day of the year’s first Parliamentary sitting. However, the proposed amendments were unexpectedly withdrawn last Thursday without explanation.
One speculation may be that the withdrawal is a manifestation of the intense pressure that the government is navigating from both the politically-linked taxi unions as well as the Malaysian ride-sharing technology firms.
Until the reasons are made clear, the sudden backtrack may provide renewed hope for local taxi unions, which had been bitterly opposing the competition from ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Grab.
It is possible that the postponement may yield a positive. For one, it may offer more time for both sides to resolve their differences and find a way to co-exist — such as the aborted attempt last month by Uber and a local taxi umbrella body to team up.
However, a more likely aftermath would be increased noise and pushback from the taxi unions which represents 77,000 taxi drivers in Malaysia – against e-hailing service providers, especially with talk of the 14th general elections being just around the corner.
That, in turn, would simply prolong the impasse between taxi unions and the ride-sharing firms.