Uber vows to communicate with government in face of suspension order threat

By Sun Hsin Hsuan, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Uber Taiwan extended a new olive branch to an irate local cab industry Thursday, declaring that it would collaborate with yellow taxi drivers in a service called UberTaxi. UberTaxi, set for launch by the end of February, would allow customers to call yellow cabs through Uber’s ride-hailing app. The Transportation Ministry said the collaboration didn’t change the fact that Uber was illegal and would be asked to suspend its unlawful operations as soon as February.

“Despite Uber Taiwan’s new product launch as well as its current services, namely UberX and UberBlack, still exist outside legal grounds,” Hu Ti-chi (胡迪琦), an official in the Department of Railways and Highways at the Transportation Ministry, told The China Post. “And the ministry has zero tolerance for that.” An order to suspend illegal operations, plus Uber’s first fine notice of NT$1 million, will be issued in accordance to a Highway Act amendment that came into force this month, Hu said. Asked to respond to the Transportation Ministry’s position, Uber Taiwan General Manager Ku Li-kai (顧立楷) told The China Post the company would continue to communicate with the ministry to work out a mutually acceptable solution. Outreach to Cabbies UberTaxi is widely seen as a move to placate infuriated established players in the domestic taxi industry. Uber Taiwan’s Public Relations Manager Jessica Pan told The China Post that UberTaxi was a joint effort between Uber Taiwan and Taiwan Taxi Drivers’ Labor Union (中華民國計程車駕駛員工會全國聯合會). Only members of the Taiwan Taxi Drivers’ Labor Union are eligible to register as a UberTaxi driver, and Uber Taiwan will not collect a registration fee from drivers in the preliminary stage, she said. Pan declined to comment on whether the company planned to charge drivers for registration in the future, saying only that the current priority was to ensure that the app ran smoothly. Trips arranged by UberTaxi would be priced based on the current fare system used by local taxi companies, Pan said, adding that it remained under discussion whether UberTaxi passengers could pay with credit card, as Uber passengers can. Despite Uber Taiwan’s claim to have collaborated with a local cabbie union, UberTaxi provoked a strong negative reaction from some in the yellow cab industry. Cheng Li-chia (鄭力嘉), president of the Taipei City Professional Drivers’ Union, and deputy director of the Taiwan Vehicle Transportation Drivers’ Union (中華民國汽車運輸業駕駛員全國總工會), said the so-called business-union collaboration was merely a deal between Uber and an individual, Taiwan Taxi Drivers’ Labor Union Director Lin Sheng-he (林聖河). Lin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.