Azerbaijani authorities have issued an order to suspend delivery service Wolt’s activities in the country for violating health regulations. The order is, as of yet, non-binding, and Wolt continues to operate in Azerbaijan.
The Food Safety Agency ordered the suspension of the Finnish food ordering and delivery platform on 14 August, for violating ‘technical and regulatory’ requirements.
It also accused Wolt of violating temperature and storage regulations. It also claimed that vehicles used for deliveries were not disinfected and that its couriers do not undergo medical examination.
Wolt operates through courier partners — gig workers who sign up to become couriers through a Wolt companion app.
Though the agency’s decision to suspend Wolt’s services in Azerbaijan is non-binding, it criticised Wolt for continuing operation.
As of publication, access to the application has not been impeded by the authorities. In order for the Food Safety Agency’s decision to come into force, it has to be ordered by an Azerbaijani court or the government.
In its response to the Food Safety Agency, Wolt Azerbaijan accused the agency of damaging its reputation through ‘incomplete and false information’.
A potential state monopoly
While several other delivery platforms currently operate in Azerbaijan, civil society activists speculate that the authorities are attempting to crack down on the food delivery sector in an effort to monopolise the market through new applications.
Ahmad Mammadli, the chair of Democracy 1918, a pro-democracy movement, suggested that those close to President Ilham Aliyev might establish delivery services of their own.
‘It seems that either [they] will create a new application to monopolise the market or enter into an agreement with another delivery company’, Mammadli told OC Media.
Mammadli also pointed to the detention of three labour rights activists who were engaged in demonstrations organised by delivery couriers protesting new vehicle registration laws that would restrict their work.
Two of those arrested, Afiadin Mammadov and Aykhan Israfilov, were members of both his organisation and the Workers’ Table Trade Unions Confederation.
‘The government that arrested the members of the Workers’ Table, instead of trying to find a solution in this area, decided the issue once and for all by suspending Wolt’s activity in Azerbaijan’, said Mammadli.