Almost two years and eight different draft versions later, the Polish parliament finally adopted the Amendment on 16 May 2019. It entered into force on 1 January 2020 and includes changes to the following legal acts:
- Road Traffic Act;
- Act on Road Transport;
- Act on Drivers' Working Time.
The Amendment creates uniform and equal requirements for all entities engaged in business activities related to the carriage of passenger cars and taxis. One of its main goals was to enable fair competition among carriers, provide a higher level of safety for passengers and legalise ridesharing mobile applications.
The Amendment is an attempt to digitalise, harmonise and better understand the passenger transport market. The newly adopted provisions change the basic definition of a taxi cab, which now acknowledges the existence of mobile applications (unlike the old definition) and reads as follows: a taxi cab is a "motor vehicle, properly equipped and marked, intended for carriage of persons in a number not exceeding 9 (together with driver) and their hand luggage, for a fee determined on the basis of a taximeter or mobile application". The Amendment also introduces completely new definitions, such as "intermediation in passenger transport", which also covers the activity of the above mentioned ridesharing providers like Uber, Bolt and others, and explains that such intermediation is an economic activity consisting of transferring orders of passenger transport, collecting a fee for such transport, concluding relevant agreements and enabling the conclusion of agreements on passenger transport by taxi cab or other properly equipped car through "means of electronic communication, Internet domains, mobile applications, computer programs, telecommunication systems and other means of information".
From 2020, both carriers (drivers) and intermediaries are obliged to obtain a relevant licence to provide passenger transport services. Consequently, any person wanting to become or continue their service as a driver for a ridesharing app like Uber or Bolt is legally required to obtain a licence. The said license, however, should be relatively easy to get since as of 1 January 2020, thanks to the overwhelming growth and ubiquity of sophisticated navigation systems, passing an exam on the city's topography is generally no longer required. Licences for drivers are still issued by the relevant municipality (e.g. town mayor or president) but no longer cover a specific vehicle (as it did before), just a territory. With respect to the intermediaries, the General Inspectorate of Road Transport remains the entity competent for licence-related issues. It also faces a new obligation, as from 1 January 2020 the inspectorate is obliged to maintain a register (list) of entities operating as intermediaries in passenger transport.
To increase passengers' security, in addition to the previously existing restrictions, the Amendment bans people who have been convicted for certain offences referred to in the act on counteracting drug addiction from getting a licence and becoming a taxi driver. Intermediaries are obliged to verify whether the driver they plan to hire or cooperate with has a valid licence. Failure to do so may result in a fine of up to PLN 10,000 (approx. EUR 2,300) imposed on the intermediary. Acting as an intermediary without a licence, on the other hand, is punishable by a fine of PLN 40,000 (approx. EUR 9,200).
The Amendment provides a new and clearer regulatory framework for intermediaries. While it may create some new barriers, such as licences for ridesharing apps drivers, the Amendment should not slow down the growth of ridesharing apps, since they already enjoy equal or even greater customer confidence than traditional taxis. Time will tell whether the dispute will be mitigated and resolved.