By Aditi Shah and Aditya Kalra
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - New Delhi city authorities have warned Uber and its rival Ola for allegedly violating local transport rules by providing two-wheeler bike taxis, a senior government official told Reuters on Tuesday.
The transport department of India's capital on Feb. 19, issued newspaper ads asking digital companies to "immediately stop" allowing personal bike taxis that offer commercial, ride-hailing services on their apps as they violated city rules.
As of Tuesday, bike taxis continue to be available for booking on Uber and Ola apps in New Delhi.
Delhi is a key market for ride-hailing firms. Uber says in 2022, more than 1.9 million trips took place to and from metro rail stations in Delhi on Uber Moto, its bike taxi service.
Ashish Kundra, principal secretary and commissioner for transport in Delhi government, last week sent warning notices for non-compliance to Uber and Ola, asking them why they should not be penalised. The companies were given a week to respond.
"There is clearly a violation of law ... For the next few days we will watch what they do and then consider next steps including all legal options which we are well within our rights to use," Kundra said.
Uber, he added, has sought a meeting with Delhi officials to discuss the matter.
Uber and Softbank Group-backed Ola did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for a comment on Delhi city's warning letters.
The Feb. 19 newspaper ad said companies can face a penalty of up to 100,000 rupees ($1,209) for non-compliance. For drivers of bike taxis, the penalties could be as high as 10,000 rupees ($121) and a jail term of up to one year.
The enforcement of rules for bike taxis by Delhi government follows similar moves by Maharashtra and Karnataka states.
Delhi official Kundra said while the use of personal vehicles as bike taxis was not allowed under city rules, it also poses a safety concern as they do not have the same checks as commercially-registered vehicles, such as police verification of drivers.
"The rider could be anyone and we have to be mindful of concerns around passenger safety, especially women," Kundra said. "Companies cannot ride roughshod over law."
(Reporting by Aditi Shah and Aditya Kalra)