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3,000 private car owners working illegally with Uber in Taiwan

2016/03/24 14:36:45

A Uber drive is issued a ticket at Kaohsiung International Airport in February. (Photo courtesy of the Kaohsiung Motor Vehicles Office)

Taipei, March 24 (CNA) About 3,000 private car owners in Taiwan are working with ride-sharing service provider Uber, even though the business remains illegal in the country, an official of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) said Thursday.

Answering questions before the Legislative Yuan's transportation committee, Deputy Transportation Minister Fan Chih-ku (范植谷) said that the ministry has intensified its crackdown on the service.

Uber, multinational online transportation network company based in San Francisco, began its service in Taiwan three years ago and so far has failed to secure a status as a legal business.

Fan told lawmakers that Uber has not registered as a transportation services provider in Taiwan, although his ministry has repeatedly communicated with the company, which calls itself a communication services provider. The official said that Uber has also been banned in many developed countries and faces penalties.

Fan said the MOTC is determined to crack down on Uber.

A day earlier, the Cabinet said Uber is not welcome in Taiwan, since it has never paid local taxes and all of its transactions are processed overseas.

The MOTC has imposed heavier penalties on drivers who use their private cars to take passengers or deliver cargo for profit.

The fine for a first-time offender driving a private car seating nine or fewer passengers or a truck weighing 3,500 kilograms or less remains at NT$50,000 (US$1,534), and the vehicle's license will be suspended for two months.

The fines for the second to fourth offenses have been raised to NT$60,000, NT$70,000 and NT$80,000, respectively, from NT$50,000, NT$60,000 and NT$60,000 previously. License suspensions remain at three, four and six months, respectively.

In January, the MOTC said it is planning to introduce a new business mechanism in which certain taxis can be booked by passengers in advance but cannot stop and pick up potential passengers hailing a taxi on the street. The new business pattern is aimed at taking on Uber, the ministry said.

Since September 2014, Uber has been fined more than NT$49 million for violating the Highways Act, which bans unlicensed operators of transportation services. Those fines are separate from those imposed on Uber's drivers.

Uber has paid the fines but has challenged them in court. The case is currently pending in the Supreme Administrative Court.

(By Wang Shu-fen and Frances Huang)