Uber says it will suspend services in Taiwan from Feb. 10 (update)

Taipei--The U.S.-based ride-hailing company Uber said Thursday that it will suspend its ride-sharing services in Taiwan with effect from Feb. 10 amid media reports that it will soon face an order from the Ministry of Transportation and Communications to halt its operations in this country.

Local media have reported that Uber has been caught in more than 48 violations since Jan. 6, which might result in an estimated NT$1.1 billion (US$35.38 million) in fines, given that the maximum fine for the operation of illegal passenger transportation services was increased to NT$25 million with effect from that date.

The reports also said the transportation ministry was expected to issue an order Thursday to force Uber to halt its operations in Taiwan.

In a statement issued Thursday, Uber said it had made "a tough decision" to suspend its services in Taiwan from Feb. 10.

Uber said its drivers have been committed to providing safe transportation services in Taiwan but have had to face heavy fines by the government.

It is understandable that the transportation ministry must enforce the new amendment to the Highway Act that took effect Jan. 6, increasing the fines on Uber and its drivers, the company said.

"Faced with such a dilemma, we think that we need to come up with a new approach," Uber said, adding that it hopes to reopen a dialogue with the government to find a resolution to allowing the development of innovative transportation technology in Taiwan.

Since its entry to Taiwan in 2013, Uber said, it has provided 15 million rides in four cities.

Expressing thanks to its drivers and passengers for their support over the past four years, Uber said it was hoping to resume its service in Taiwan in the future.

Commenting on Uber's decision to suspend services in Taiwan, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Cheng Yun-peng (???) said it could have been avoided if the company had been proactive about communicating with the government to iron out the legal issues.

Cheng, a member of the Legislature's Transportation Committee, also said the government should take advantage of new technologies to upgrade Taiwan's taxi services.

Another member of the committee, Kuomintang (KMT) lawmaker Chen Hsuen-sheng (???), said all companies operating in Taiwan must comply with the local laws and regulations.

However, KMT lawmaker Hsu Yu-jen (???) said in a Facebook post that imposing heavy fines on Uber did not help to solve the problem or make the transportation industry better.

Uber reportedly has been offering better services than taxis in Taiwan, providing a more comfortable ride at a lower price.

Registered in Taiwan as an information services company, however, Uber does not have legal permission to operate transportation services, according to the government.

The transportation ministry said that as of late December 2016, Uber had accumulated fines of NT$68.45 million for 481 violations, while its drivers had been fined a total of NT$20.83 million.

Under the new amendment to the Highway Act that was passed in December 2016, the maximum fine against operators of illegal transportation services has been increased from between NT$50,000 and NT$150,000 to between NT$100,000 and NT$25 million.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel