Why a ComfortDelGro-Uber alliance is undesirable in the long run – The Straits Times


SINGAPORE – The Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) is anticipated to determine by the finish of the month whether or not to approve an alliance between two of Singapore’s largest experience suppliers – ComfortDelGro and Uber.

The CCS is doing a second spherical of suggestions gathering on the influence of ComfortDelGro’s proposed 51 per cent acquisition of Uber-owned Lion City Holdings. If there are considerations, the fee will go into its second part of deliberations, which might be extra in depth, and more likely to take longer to finish.

The regulatory watchdog has good purpose to be cautious. The deal will create a big with a fleet of greater than 27,000 – 13,500 Comfort and CityCab taxis and 14,000 Lion City personal-rent automobiles. This is out of a complete fleet of 24,400 cabs and 50,000 personal-rent automobiles.

Other than instantly proudly owning 14,000 personal-rent automobiles via Lion City, it is not recognized how extensively Uber has tied up with rental companies which provide the remaining 36,000 automobiles to drivers.

The American group’s maintain on the personal-rent market, vis-a-vis Grab’s, is thus unclear. But it is clear that a ComfortDelGro-Uber tie-up will tilt the stability in favour of the two teams. It will thus erode competitors – one thing that¬†is probably undesirable to each drivers and commuters in the long run.

The pair is already launching UberFlash, a journey-hailing app which provides cabbies probably greater earnings with dynamic fares. During low-demand hours, fares are more likely to be barely decrease than present taxi fares. But when demand is excessive – say, on wet days, the morning rush hour or when trains break down – fares can surge 3 times greater.


As with most industries, measurement works to the benefit of the dominant participant, which may give it an unfair benefit over different gamers. In competitors regulation, this could possibly be described as abusive dominance if the dominant participant, whether or not tacitly or overtly, prevents rivals from competing.

“If such abuses are not stopped, potential competitors will not be able to enter the market or grow in size, industries will be less competitive and customers will lose out eventually,” the CCS stated on its web site. It makes it clear that being dominant, by itself, is not anti-aggressive. But the potential for abuse exists.

For instance, a dominant grocery store chain, upon studying that a rival is eyeing a just lately vacant property, might supply the landlord a lot greater rental to maintain competitors out. Or a main motor insurer may domesticate a community of workshops to reject automobiles coated by different insurers.

Even earlier than the proposed alliance with Uber, ComfortDelGro already had round 60 per cent share of the taxi market, in accordance with fleet measurement. The different taxi operators – in the earlier years, primarily solely SMRT and a small fragmented fleet of proprietor-operators – couldn’t compete with Comfort in any efficient approach. It will dwarf all of them once more, if it joins palms with Uber.


In 2001, the Government liberalised the market. Barriers have been lowered to permit new entrants. Trans-Cab, Premier and Prime entered the fray in the following years.

That created some competitors for drivers, and Comfort began allotting extra incentive funds and welfare to its cabbies.

But nothing else modified. Cabby rental charges continued to be revised upwards, and commuters nonetheless complained about not with the ability to get a cab once they wanted one (regardless of the general fleet having grown by a third since liberalisation).

This was as a result of despite the fact that there have been newcomers, the dominant participant continued to name the photographs when it got here to modifications that mattered – similar to rental charges and fares. Attempts by the smaller gamers to introduce differential pricing, or a variation of peak and off-peak fares, failed. Invariably, they might revert to Comfort’s mannequin.

In time, there can be no change until Comfort modified.


Things took a dramatic flip when Uber and Grab entered the scene in 2013. For the first time, taxi drivers and commuters had a viable various. And ComfortDelGro began to face competitors – for actual.

When Grab partnered all the different smaller operators to supply commuters other ways to get a experience, creating a mixed fleet measurement which just about equalled ComfortDelGro’s, the big had met its equal for the first time.

So, what the 2001 liberalisation did not do in greater than 10 years, the disruptors did in underneath 4. While Grab partnering the smaller cab companies had resized the market, it left Uber with a weakened place. The US firm had no selection however to knock on Comfort’s doorways.

Being equally weakened, ComfortDelGro had no selection however to sleep with the enemy.


If the ComfortDelGro-Uber deal is allowed, the market will revert to its David-Goliath imbalance. But in contrast to the biblical consequence, Goliath virtually all the time wins in any market.

The present state of affairs provides a degree of competitors by no means seen earlier than in the rides market right here. It ought to be preserved because it is, even when regulatory measures to reinforce security and insurance policies to make sure truthful tax remedy for all gamers could be improved.

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