By Stanley Carvalho
ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Ride-hailing services such as Uber [UBER.UL] and others will have to register their apps and heed new regulations to operate in Abu Dhabi, a top official at the Gulf emirate's taxi regulator said on Monday.
U.S.-based Uber and regional rival Careem suspended services in the capital of the United Arab Emirates on Aug. 27 after many of their drivers were stopped by authorities over violations of regulations, sources told Reuters at the time.
Careem has since resumed services in Abu Dhabi, although Uber has yet to do so as it awaits clarification on some issues.
The new regulations are coming "very soon" and will include a provision requiring ride-hailing apps to register with The Centre for Regulation of Transport by Hire Cars (Transad), its general manager Mohamed Darwish al-Qamzi said.
"This will help us to control the market easier by blocking any unregulated application with us," he told Reuters. Currently, ride-hailing services are not regulated in the UAE.
Qamzi said companies such as Uber and Careem suspended their services after Abu Dhabi began enforcing tighter regulations to curb malpractices and a growing black market.
“There was a black market, many illegal drivers doing part-time work, over-charging customers and not following regulations,” he said.
A spokesman for Careem denied any wrongdoing by the company and its drivers. An Uber spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment, although the company has previously said it complies with all existing regulations.
According to the new Abu Dhabi regulations, ride-hailing apps must work only with luxury private hire companies and strictly follow their price structure. They must also send a list of drivers and cars to Transad, he said.
At the moment, ride-hailing apps work with drivers who operate limousines as well as smaller cars that are not registered with Transad.
Transad works with seven franchisee taxi companies with 7,645 registered taxis operating in Abu Dhabi.
“We are not against the apps services," said Qamzi. "It is the choice of the people. But we need to make sure the cars are safe, drivers are genuine and the safety of customers is first.”
Uber, which launched services in Abu Dhabi in 2013, said last year that the Middle East and North Africa contained some of its fastest-growing markets and that it planned to invest $250 million to expand in the region.
It said on June 1 that had raised $3.5 billion from an investment by Saudi Arabia's state-owned Public Investment Fund.
(Editing by David French/Mark Heinrich)