4 Reasons why Uber failed in Trinidad and Tobago

When Uber launched in T&T, it was viewed as being potentially transformative to the public transport industry by bringing a safer and more reliable method of getting around. After much initial fanfare however, Uber has decided to pause operations in Trinidad and Tobago. So, what happened?

Here’s a few reasons why Uber may have opted to call it quits.

Low credit card usage

Credit card penetration in Trinidad and Tobago is roughly 20% of the adult population with many businesses still not accepting credit cards as a form of payment. Public support for an Uber type service may not have been high enough to warrant a shift to using their services. High interest rates, stiff penalties and the difficulty of accessing credit for many persons has limited the number of persons willing to make heavier usage of credit cards.

Higher Cost

While Uber did allow cash payments for those without credit card access, the higher cost of taking an Uber taxi instead of a route or shared taxi meant that persons would have to carry significantly more cash while moving around instead of the more affordable option of using a route or shared taxi at significantly lower costs. Comparative to route taxis, the cost of hailing an Uber came with a minimum fee that was already 4 or 5 times the average cost of competing services. Thus, usage as a daily service was simply not feasible for many potential customers.

High Crime

By accepting cash payments, Uber drivers also made themselves reliable mobile targets. There were several incidents where several drivers were targeted and robbed of cash, cell phones and even their vehicles. This culminated in the death of a young Uber driver who was murdered in what appeared to be an attempted robbery. Given the higher costs of using Uber, if safety could not be guaranteed then it also becomes difficult for consumers to justify higher prices and diminishes the status of the service in the eyes of the public.

Legal Issues

Uber was fundamentally operating outside the law as private vehicles are not allowed to operate as taxis according to local law. The government of T&T has consistently maintained that the technology company was an illegal enterprise with significant questions still needing to be answered with relation to insurance coverage for both drivers and passengers as well as the taxation structure which was never disclosed. Drivers who are robbed may also be facing problems reporting crime without also being accused of offering an illegal service.

Even though Uber is a welcome technology, some might say it was doomed from inception due to a flawed launch that did not take into consideration certain cultural and political hurdles that it would encounter. Yet while Uber may not have made the inroads it expected, it now leaves the market open for competing services such as Drop Taxi and Caribbean Taxi or a new service.

Leave a Reply