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Passenger says had to lie to aggressive cabbies to save Uber driver during ambush

KUALA LUMPUR — A Czech Republic native was forced to protect the Uber driver who had picked him up from a mall in Malaysia by claiming he was just a friend, after a group of angry taxi drivers ambushed the man’s vehicle and threatened to damage it.

The logo of car-sharing service app Uber. Photo: Reuters

The logo of car-sharing service app Uber. Photo: Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR — A Czech Republic native was forced to protect the Uber driver who had picked him up from a mall in Malaysia by claiming he was just a friend, after a group of angry taxi drivers ambushed the man’s vehicle and threatened to damage it.

According to video producer Mate Valtr, the incident occurred Tuesday night (Oct 13) when he and his girlfriend used the Uber app to hail the driver to Mid Valley Megamall in Kuala Lumpur.

He said as they were boarding the Uber taxi, four taxi drivers followed them to the car and proceeded to threaten the driver.

“Before we managed to lock the door, they started knocking on the car and pulling the door handle on the driver’s side, which they eventually opened, and proceeded to snatch the driver’s car keys and started yelling at him,” he said in an email interview last night.

“While aggressively pointing their fingers in front of his face, they accused him of being of an Uber driver and warned that if they confirmed that he was an Uber driver, they would damage his car,” Mr Valtr added.

Mr Valtr, who currently resides in KL, said he had to lie to the rogue cabbies by telling them the driver was merely a friend, in order to diffuse the heated confrontation.

“I called the driver via the Uber app, but as this situation arose and grew worse with four aggressive taxi drivers surrounding us, it was apparent they were just waiting for a reason to justify their behaviour – which would be admitting that our driver worked for Uber.

“Because I was seriously concerned about the safety of all of us involved — especially of the driver — I told them that he was my friend, hoping it would stop their threats and make them give back the car keys to the driver, which didn’t really work,” he said.

He added that the taxi drivers only backed down when police arrived and discussed the matter with both the cabbies and with Mr Valtr.

“When the police arrived, the taxi drivers became very submissive — shaking hands with the officers, trying to sweet-talk them — apparently they were a bit scared at this point and clearly had some respect towards the police,” he said, adding, however, that no arrest was made.

Earlier today on Twitter, Mr Valtr tweeted that the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) had in fact contacted him requesting contact information for enforcement officers to follow-up on the case.

He noted in an earlier email to the Malay Mail Online, however, that he had not lodged a formal complaint about the incident, as he remained pessimistic that the relevant authorities would act as no one had been injured.

“I didn’t lodge a formal complaint as this situation happened very late at night and I was going to be quite busy the next day with my work.

“One big factor of not reporting was that I had my doubts that my complaint would have any effect as nobody was hurt in this case and there was very little tangible evidence of crime from the side of the taxi drivers,” he said.

Not all taxi drivers are “thugs”, he stressed, having met many “nice” and “well-educated” cabbies, but insisted that the authorities implement stiffer penalties and improve on the existing service.

“I hope that the authorities will come up with tougher penalties that will be taken more seriously by mob taxi drivers like those from my case.

“But instead of blaming Uber, taxi companies should look into why is it that people love using Uber and learn from it. It’s simply because the service is always perfect – guaranteed,” he said.

On Sept 29, a group of taxi drivers protesting against the unlicenced taxi services in front of the SPAD headquarters at Kelana Jaya lured a GrabCar driver to their location to be detained by SPAD.

Last week, The Star Online reported Big Blue Taxi Services founder Shamsubahrin Ismail announcing that cabbies in the city had indulged in vigilantism by tracking and “detaining” private hire vehicle drivers and handing them over to the authorities.

Uber, on Tuesday, had come out to condemn the reported ambushes allegedly staged by local cabbies to nab its drivers but said the incidents would not result in it pulling its partners off the city’s streets.

In July, the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) said that although private hire vehicle services like Uber and GrabCar are legal as “service matching” businesses, the manner they operate is not as they do not carry licences to transport passengers.

Local taxi associations have been urging the authorities to take serious action against the firms, citing a big loss in business and unfair competition, as the ride-sharing services remain unregulated while conventional cabbies face restrictions by law. MALAY MAIL ONLINE

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