GLEEFUL UNIONS?Taipei City Taxi Transportation Federation chairman Wang Ming-hsiung said that taxi drivers have been eagerly awaiting action against Uber
By Shelley Shan / Staff reporter
Uber Taiwan general manager Gu Li-kai, left, and Taxi Driver Labor Union of the Republic of China chairman Lin Sheng-he, center, give the thumbs-up sign at a news conference in Taipei on Jan. 19.
Photo courtesy of Uber Technologies Inc
The Directorate General of Highways (DGH) yesterday ordered the suspension of ride-hailing service app Uber’s operations over breaches of the Highway Act (公路法), adding that the accumulated penalties for the company and the drivers it recruited have topped NT$232.1 million (US$7.46 million) after an amendment to the Highway Act took effect earlier this year.
The ruling was issued yesterday by the Taipei City Motor Vehicles Office, the DGH’s agency in Taipei.
According to the ruling, Uber is not a registered enterprise engaging in the business of transportation service by automobile, but it was found to have dispatched private cars or rental cars to offer the service for financial gain. Such action has breached the second item in Article 77 of the act.
Hu Ti-chi (胡迪琦), a senior engineer at the Ministry of Transportation and Communications’ Department of Highways and Railway, said that a total of 96 citations had been issued to Uber and its drivers after the amendment — which raised the maximum penalty for illegal taxi operations to NT$25 million — took effect on Jan. 6, with the rulings on 22 of them having been confirmed.
The cumulative penalties for the 22 cases topped NT$232.1 million, including NT$231 million for the company and NT$1.1 million for drivers, Hu said. Prior to Jan. 6, the company and its drivers had been fined NT$96.49 million.
Commenting on Uber’s announcement yesterday that it would suspend operations from Friday next week, Hu said that the ministry was happy to hear that the company was seeking to reopen communications with it.
“We will absolutely welcome Uber if it becomes a legal automobile transportation enterprise or taxicab transportation service. The company would be welcome to stay in Taiwan if it pays taxes and is subject to regulations on taxi operators and taxi passenger insurance,” Hu said, adding that the ministry would continue to crack down on Uber and its drivers if it continues to operate illegally.
Asked if Uber’s announcement took the ministry by surprise, Hu said the ministry would have to wait and see what happens on Friday next week.
She said the company talked about offering UberTaxi last month, but nobody really knows the details of the service, including how the company plans to work with local taxi operators.
If Uber is serious about becoming a legal operator, Hu said that the company needs to either become a registered automobile transportation enterprise or a taxi transportation service provider.
The difference is that the former owns a fleet of cars and offers taxi services, while the latter does not have its own fleet of cars and is mainly in charge of dispatching taxis to people requesting the service or offering taxi-related services, she said.
Hu said what Uber offers seems more in line with the latter, based on its track record.
To become a qualified taxicab transportation service provider, the company would have to have at least NT$5 million in capital and a minimum of 150 letters of intent from legal taxi drivers who would work with it, she said.
Wang Ming-hsiung (王明雄), chairman of the Taipei City Taxi Transportation Federation, also weighed in on Uber’s planned service suspension, saying that it is something taxi drivers in the country have been eagerly awaiting.
Wang remained critical of how the government handled the Uber situation, but he said that the company and its application did make taxi operators realize that their service would have to change to adapt to the latest trends in technology.