Israelis will no longer be able to order a private ride with Uber Technologies Inc. by using a smartphone after a Tel Aviv court on Monday issued an injunction against the company.
Tel Aviv District Court Chief Justice Eitan Orenstein said that without proper travel insurance, Uber would have to stop its private vehicles from ferrying passengers in Israel within two days.
“If they won’t get insurance, I won’t let them drive a meter,” Orenstein said, according to the court transcript.
“ It remains illegal for unregistered private drivers to ferry passengers in return for payment, as many of the private Uber drivers operate without studying safety regulations and undergoing any form of testing.
A month-and-a-half ago, UberDay and UberNight expanded their services in the Tel Aviv area, operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It was a boon to passengers, since public transit doesn’t run on Shabbat, religious holidays or late at night.
While uberDay and uberNight services will be stopped, Uber users can still order rides on the smartphone app from registered taxi drivers.
“We are committed to continuing to cooperate with the authorities, to examine how our technology can provide reliable, cost-effective and safe transportation options,” Uber Israel said in a statement.
The convenience of tapping on a phone for a ride has lured tens millions of riders worldwide to use Uber. In Israel, people can order taxi rides on their phones via Gett, unlike in New York City, where most taxis aren’t connected to a smartphone app.
“The transportation regulations were drafted in the 1960s and they haven’t been updated, before cell phones and technology,” Uber Israel CEO Yoni Greifman told The Jerusalem Post earlier this month. “We are trying to operate within the correct regulation, but in a regulatory world that doesn’t suit the current reality… It’s going to be absurd if we’re start-up nation and we’re at the forefront of automotive technologies but we can’t get Uber.”
Taxi drivers, along with the Transportation Ministry and Minister Israel Katz, have been fighting the ride-hailing giant for years, in an attempt to prevent the company from entering the Israeli market.
In addition to the lack of safety regulations and testing for Uber drivers, they cite fears the company will cause rates to plummet, preventing drivers from earning a living wage.
Gett Taxi and the Association of Taxi Drivers have filed suit against the company. In May, the Transportation Ministry filed an indictment against Uber after a covert investigation resulted in allegations that drivers transported passengers without a permit.
Uber has faced scrutiny from regulators worldwide. A Transportation Ministry spokesperson declined to comment on the ruling, saying that the lawsuit was filed by taxi representatives, not by the government.
Uber was founded in 2009 and now offers services in more than 600 cities worldwide.
In September, the company was banned from operating in London for flouting safety regulations. The company had revenues of some $6.5 billion in 2016.