Taxi drivers mull massive protest against Uber

Taipei, An alliance of Taiwanese taxi drivers said Wednesday that it is planning to mobilize 80,000 taxi drivers nationwide to take to the streets in protest of what they call an illegal operation of ride-hailing company Uber, which returned to the Taiwan market in April last year with a new business model.

The Taiwan Taxi Industry Development Alliance said Uber's market strategy has introduced unfair competition in the taxi industry and should be blamed for four suicides of taxi drivers between Aug. 9-19, allegedly due to financial difficulties.

The union will consider staging a massive protest in the near future to demand that the government impose stricter regulations on Uber services, said alliance spokesman Cheng Li-chia (???).

"The Uber service has threatened the public interests because it is free from many government restrictions applied to the transportation sector," Cheng said.

Currently, Uber is partnering with the country's car rental companies with hired drivers to provide taxi services.

Unlike the business model prior to Uber's retreat from Taiwan's market in February 2017, when car owners could work with Uber directly, they now have to work as "hired drivers" by rental companies, with their vehicles registered to those enterprises.

Uber argues that this way, it can operate transportation services based on Article 100 of the Transportation Management Regulations, which allows car rental companies to hire drivers, or individual car owners who signed with Uber, to offer taxi services.

Before this shift in its business model, Uber was attacked for matchmaking drivers and passengers through its App services, with its registration in Taiwan as an information services firm instead of a transport service provider since first entering Taiwan in 2013.

But according to the union, Uber is still evading the law, since according to Article 34 of the Highway Act, car rental business applies only to companies that "rent passenger cars to others" without clearly identifying that such service could also involve the "rental" of a driver.

Even if the law allows that a car rental company can hire drivers, they should not be allowed to operate taxi services, because the whole business model is against fair competition, some lawmakers have argued.

While the total number of taxi drivers is capped at 100,000 by the government, there is no such limit on Uber drivers, whose number has neared 7,000 nationwide, according to the alliance.

Wang Chao-ming (???), a section chief of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications' (MOTC's) Department of Railways and Highways, said the ministry will work with the Ministry of Justice to figure out the relevant laws and then communicate with all parties invloved.

But he also said that from the MOTC's perspective, Uber has been operating according to the law and that the term "rental" applies to both the rental of a car and driver.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel