Uber ups the ante in fight with Taiwan authorities by suspending service

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 02, 2017 12:55 AM

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Uber Technologies Inc said it will suspend its service in Taiwan from Feb. 10, firing the latest salvo in the ride-hailing service company's long-running dispute with the island's authorities.

Uber's move comes after Taiwan recently raised fines against unlicensed ride-sharing services, targeted at Uber, which the company said were the highest in the world. Taiwan has maintained Uber's business is illegal, and at one point last year even considered ordering it to leave the domestic market.

The U.S. company has protested fines against it and defended its model, and in November issued an open letter to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen to intervene, appealing to her push to turn Taiwan into a Silicon Valley in Asia.

But the increase in the fines appears to have driven matters to a head.

"We will pause our operations until the president and her government find a solution," Damian Kassabgi, director of Uber's public policy in the Asia-Pacific region, said in an emailed statement.

Uber said there was no timeline for how long the suspension would last. The suspension would not affect UberEATS, its the meal takeaway service that relies primarily on scooters for deliveries and was launched in November last year on the island.

Taiwan's Ministry of Transportation and Communications was not immediately available to comment.

In a statement on its website, Uber said it hoped its service suspension would "reset the conversation and inspire President Tsai to take action." The statement did not specify what action Uber wanted the president to take.

Uber operates in Taiwan as an internet-based technology platform rather than as a transportation company, which its opponents and Taiwanese authorities have said is a mis-representation of its service.

The company has argued that it provides a technology service and has said there are over 10,000 driver-partners, mainly local citizens, registered on its platform in Taiwan who use the opportunity afforded by Uber to earn income.

Uber has been facing similar legal scrutiny in markets across Asia. It entered the Taiwan market in 2013, and its growing popularity has triggered anger among domestic taxi drivers, who staged a massive protest against Uber last year.

The company has been consulting with the government on a new cross-border e-commerce bill and offered specific suggestions on ride-sharing regulations, according to its statement on Thursday. It has also secured local insurance and has reached out to collaborate with the local taxi industry, the statement said.

($1 = 31.1030 Taiwan dollars)

(Reporting by J.R. Wu; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)