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David Parry/PA Archive
fightin' words

Hailo's message to Uber: This town ain't big enough for the both of us

Commercial carpooling is yet to properly rear its head in Ireland.

THE HEAD OF Hailo in Ireland has this to say to the Ubers of this world: you’re not needed here.

“We believe that in a functioning licensed taxi market, like Ireland, people can get taxis when they need,” Hailo Ireland general manager Tim Arnold said.

“The markets where they have had success is where they have had a dysfunctional licensed taxi market.”

Last week a UK court declared Uber’s app legal in London after pressure from the city’s cabbies drove local authorities to push for it to be ruled an illicit taximeter.

It was the latest front in a war that has included disputes from South Korea to Paris, often pitching the taxi industry against a company offering the lure of cheap fares for passengers willing to take trips in everyday drivers’ cars.

However speaking with TheJournal.ie, Arnold said Hailo still believed “you can be innovative in a space without being disruptive”. He said the company’s growth in Ireland had been “accelerating again” and it now enjoyed a double-digit share of the taxi market in Dublin.

90397136 Wanderley Massafelli / RollingNews.ie Wanderley Massafelli / RollingNews.ie / RollingNews.ie

“You can disrupt an industry like the taxi industry here and make it better for everybody without being completely disruptive and disregarding the rules and having a cavalier approach to regulations.

We believe that companies who try to circumvent that structure of a licensed traffic market are to the detriment of the public at large and to the drivers who are in that regulated industry.”

Dominance threatened

More than three years after Hailo hit the streets in Dublin, it has become the dominant app for taxi bookings across Ireland – seeing off early rivals like Click A Taxi and Wini Cabs. However in Uber, which quietly launched in the Republic early last year, it has an entirely different opponent on its hands.

The San Francisco-headquartered company has raised over $8 billion (€7.2 billion at today’s rates) to fuel its growth, which has been built on its commercial carpooling or “ridesharing” model of connecting paying customers with private for-hire cars.

So far it has been hamstrung in Ireland with regulations effectively banning for-reward carpooling or ridesharing services from it or competitors like US rival Lyft and France-based BlaBlaCar.

Brazil Uber An anti-Uber protest in Sao Paulo, Brazil AP Photo / Andre Penner AP Photo / Andre Penner / Andre Penner

It hasn’t stopped the $51 billion (€46.3 billion) company, which earlier this year announced a 300-person “centre of excellence” in Limerick, from lobbying the government for changes to the regulations, arguing that would cut congestion and pollution through more-efficient car use, and save passengers money as well.

Arnold said he believed it was only a matter of time before Uber tried its peer-to-peer UberPOP service in Ireland. Uber’s spokesman for Ireland, the UK and Nordic region, Harry Porter, said via email that the company didn’t have any plans to launch a peer-to-peer product in the Republic “at the moment”.

Uber tax Andrew Matthews / PA Wire Andrew Matthews / PA Wire / PA Wire

Meanwhile, Hailo has been keen to paint itself as the ‘good child’ in the car-booking class, working with authorities and running customer-friendly marketing ploys like free lifts to polling stations for the same-sex marriage referendum.

“What these other companies often do is launch despite the regulations with a very brash attitude,” Arnold said.

“They don’t worry about breaking the laws, paying the fines that are required until they can try to draw public interest to support them and get that legislation changed.”

READ: The Irish kings of online ‘mystery shoppers’ now with $20m in their coffers >

READ: How one small group of people is building Ireland’s most high-tech town >

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