Why one company has a leg up on Uber in D.C.’s mobile payments battle
Posted on: Jun 18, 2013, 10:22am EDT
By: Bill Flook, Staff Reporter – Washington Business Journal
For cab-hailing apps like Uber and mytaxi, the D.C. Taxicab Commission’s latest round of regulations on mobile fare payments represents a huge headache.
For Universal TranWare, the regs are quite the blessing.
Here’s a story of winners and losers. On one hand, you have the upstarts — the “rogue” apps, those companies that allow a rider to hail a cab and pay a fare entirely through a mobile device. Uber’s Taxi service is the best known of them. Those app makers would see a key part of their service — the mobile payment part — at least temporarily shut down under the DCTC’s latest mandate.
Those regulations require the installation of credit and debit card-reading hardware in every D.C. cab by the end of August, while at the same time requiring those “digital dispatch services” to integrate with approved “payment service providers.” In other words: Uber will need to go through a new technological middleman if it wants to keep offering in-app fare payment. It is understandably furious.
Then, the winner: Universal TranWare, a Tucson, Ariz., company that has long provided a wide range of fleet technology, both hardware and back-end software. Universal TranWare is one of the handful of companies to win preliminary approval from the taxicab commission as authorized payment service providers, and is preparing to deploy its card-swiping hardware in the District. Meanwhile, it is rolling out its own e-hailing app, NexTaxi, in D.C.
NexTaxi doesn’t face the same integration challenge as Uber, because in this case, “payment service provider” and “digital dispatch service” are essentially one and the same. While its competitors are racing to conform with the new regulations, Universal TranWare is in the position to deploy its app in the District much faster. Therefore, it has a leg up.
Universal TranWare saw these types of regulations coming — watching what happened in New York — and adjusted accordingly, said CEO Steven Juliver. “We anticipated this is where the regulators were going to go,” he said.
They don’t necessarily agree with the mandate to install backseat credit card swipers, he said. That’s now old technology, and “the new way is by phone.” Still, they aren’t exactly upset about the situation.
“As we anticipated [the DCTC is] going down this path,” Juliver said. “It keeps the ‘rogues’ from being able to participate, if they cant’ interface, if they don’t want to interface.”