The unicameral parliament in Estonia, Riigikogu, passed a bill that provides the legal framework for ridesharing services in the country last Thursday. The bill categorizes services such as Uber, Taxify, Hopp and Wisemile as “negotiated passenger transport,” and establishes standard requirements for service providers as well as their respective electronic systems. According to spokespeople at the Riigikogu, the bill aims to encourage ridesharing that enjoys minimal government interference but that also takes market conditions into account.
The “negotiated passenger transport” classification, which is entirely separate from that of taxis, applies to ridesharing vehicles with up to nine seats. These vehicles are not eligible for any of the rights granted to public transport, such as driving in bus lanes. Additionally, the name of the service provider, and the vehicle’s license plate number are to be indicated clearly in the electronic system.
“Negotiated passenger transport is neither public transport nor a taxi service, and clear and strict requirements have been set for it, for instance that orders must be placed solely through an electronic system,” member of the Economic Affairs Committee Kalle Palling said.
Riigikogu officials said the bill will open the taxi service market to competition. Indeed, ridesharing vehicles are not eligible for any of the rights granted to public transport, such as driving in bus lanes. The bill also calls for several distinctions to be made between taxis and negotiated passenger transport vehicles — for example, ridesharing vehicles are not to resemble taxis in appearance, wait for customers at taxi stands or pull over if hailed manually rather than via electronically. Correspondingly, the bill alleviates taxi drivers of several requirements, including completion of an initial training course.
“Estonia could become one of the first EU countries – perhaps even the pioneer country – to regulate ride-sharing. We aim to keep our legal environment such that it will enable the people to benefit as much as possible from the new economy – that’s why it is necessary to respond quickly and regulate ride-sharing in Estonia,” Palling said.
With a population of only 1.3 million, Estonia stands as one of the more digitally up-to-date European countries, having launched an e-citizenship initiative in 2014 and digitised its government documents.
The bill was passed by 23 MPs from all parties of the ruling coalition and was drafted by Palling in conjunction with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications.