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Users reject campaign for boycotting Uber, Careem
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 06 - 10 - 2016

JEDDAH — A new social media battle has erupted on Twitter over the ride hailing services Uber and Careem.
The social media campaign, under the hashtag "boycott Uber and Careem", is urging the public to cease using them in Saudi Arabia after the Ministry of Transport announced that only Saudis can utilize their private cars for running the service. Expatriates can work for Uber and Careem if they are employed by taxi companies.
The active hashtag has failed to convince people to stop using the apps and many Saudis say they are not only against the campaign, but they also support the Saudi drivers.
Director General of Marketing and Communication at the Ministry of Transport Turki Al-Toaimi said the ministry will allow only Saudi drivers to use their private cars for ride hailing services. Expatriates can work with the Uber and Careem through public and private taxi companies that sponsor them.
Al-Toaimi said this step comes under the new conditions set by the ministry for the Uber and Careem operations in the Kingdom.
Heba Mustafa, a Saudi housewife who uses these applications a lot, said: "I am against this campaign that is urging us to stop using these apps because of the Saudization. Saudis are qualified and are working to earn money to sustain them. My experience with Saudi drivers is not only good but I am proud of them."
She said some of the Saudi drivers are more polite and they know better than the expatriates the streets and directions.
Sara, a Saudi woman in her 30s and does not want to mention her last name, explained that she is against the campaign because she believed that these applications are useful for the public irrespective of the driver's nationality. She said once she went with a Saudi driver who added her in Line application and wanted to be a friend but she refused.
In the active hashtag, a comment by a Saudi male read: "If you reject a Saudi driver and ask for an expatriate driver, it is your problem; in either case the company is benefiting."
Nasser, a Saudi who tried Uber and Careem with Saudi drivers, commented that in his experience he found the cars were clean and the Saudis were polite and well-behaved. He wrote, "The sons of the country deserve it and I will not boycott."
However, some people are still supporting the hashtag by explaining that many Saudis are exploiting this service and working as drivers to find girl friends. Others stated in the hashtag that if the driver was a Saudi he would talk about the female who booked the trip to his friends and this may not be appropriate.
Abdulaziz Alotaibi, a Saudi driver with Uber, said he is studying abroad and is paying for his university expenses on his own. After a while his resources exhausted, so he came back to the Kingdom and registered to work in Uber to save some money.
He said, "Thank God, it was a good for me and other young men like me to earn money. Working with Uber is very beneficial, especially as the company does not insist that we work full-time or put in a certain number of hours.
So it is easy for me to work when I am in the country on vacation and collect money for the black days rather than sitting home doing nothing."
Alotaibi added that he is against the boycott campaign since it is a good way for earning money and finding jobs. There is no reason now for the youth to remain unemployed, he said.
He mentioned that most customers are happy with his work, though some women are not comfortable with having a Saudi driver. In his opinion these companies are more secure since the companies ask the drivers for a clearance certificate showing they have a clean crime record.
The Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Labor and Social Development have reaffirmed that expatriates are not allowed to use their private cars to run taxi service in the country and that violators will face heavy penalties.
"There are rules and regulations for working as a taxi driver. The civil service regulations state that public sector employees are not allowed to work as taxi drivers. Companies that offer taxi services through ride hailing apps must connect through the Wassil portal," said Al-Toaimi.
He also said such companies and individuals offering transportation services must be certified.
"To be certified, drivers must have a valid driving license, a clean crime record and he must attend workshops on traffic rules and regulations," said Al-Toaimi.
Ministry of Labor and Social Development spokesman Khalid Abalkhail said expatriates working as taxi drivers with their private cars may be fined SR10,000.
"Repeat offenders will be fined SR25,000 and imprisoned for one month. In the instance of repeating the violation for a third time, the fine will be raised to SR50,000 and the prison term will be six months followed by deportation. Taxi companies that make their expatriate employees work as taxi drivers without a license may be fined SR25,000 and prohibited from recruitment for a year," said Abalkhail.
He also said the employer may be deported if he was an expatriate.
"The penalty for repeat offense by the employer is a fine of SR50,000 and a recruitment ban for two years, in addition to naming and shaming the company in the media. The company manager may be imprisoned for six months, followed by deportation in the case of expatriates," said Abalkhail.
The fine will be raised to SR100,000 and the recruitment ban to five years for repeating the offense for the third time. The employer may be imprisoned for a year.
Ahmad Al-Enizi, a Saudi working as a taxi driver, said 75 percent of the drivers at his company are expatriates. "They seem to be unfazed by the new regulations as there are so many of them violating the rules," said Al-Enizi.
Mustapha, an expatriate, violates his work permit by working as a taxi driver.
"My sponsor does not know that I work as a taxi driver. I do not fear being fined or deported because there are so many others doing what I do. You can make SR500 a day by working as a taxi driver," said Mustapha.

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