Fri, Apr 12, 2019 - Page 12 News List

Uber drivers to protest as appeals appear to founder

By Kao Shih-ching  /  Staff reporter

From left, Uber Technologies Inc regional general manager for Asia Pacific Amit Jain, Uber Taiwan general manager Willy Wu, Platform Driver Alliance spokesperson Well Lee, Taipei Rental Association chairman Wang Shi-chang, National Rental Association secretary-general Lin Min-chieh and Call Car Bar founder Johnny Lai gesture at a news conference in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Kao Shih Ching, Taipei Times

Uber Technologies Inc yesterday appealed to the government to halt its “heavy handed” regulatory changes, while Uber drivers are planning a protest this month over the Ministry of Transportation and Communications’ new rules that they say would damage the firm’s ride-hailing business.

The ministry in February proposed a draft amendment to Article 103-1 of the Transportation Management Regulations (汽車運輸業管理規則), which would prohibit payment regimes for rental vehicles of less than one hour, and limit discounts and promotional deals. The proposed rules would also require rental vehicles to “return to the garage” after every trip.

Uber Taiwan has petitioned the ministry, but to no avail, it said.

The consultation period for the proposed changes is to end on April 26.

“We call on the government to extend the consultation period and invite all parties to talk, as it has had no or limited talks with ride-hail platforms, driver-partners and riders,” Uber regional general manager for Asia Pacific Amit Jain told a news conference in Taipei.

Jain, who was in charge of Uber’s India operations, told the Taipei Times that when he dealt with regulatory headwinds in his previous role, the firm and the Indian government had comprehensive discussions about regulatory changes, but such dialogue is lacking in Taiwan.

He would continue to petition the government at meetings, Jain said.

“We remain hopeful that our voices will be heard by the ministry and we will continue to work with our partners,” he said.

As it is difficult to forecast the worst-case scenario at the moment, Uber could not confidently say it would leave Taiwan, he said.

The ministry has suggested that Uber Taiwan transfer its drivers to the ministry’s multi-purpose taxi (MPT) program, but the firm would not consider that option, as it is similar to a traditional taxi system and requires drivers to adopt fixed fares, Jain said.

“The MPT system is the opposite of Uber and far from our vision to change the taxi industry,” he said.

The ministry’s planned changes would hurt not only Uber, but also local platform operators, said Johnny Lai (賴群森), founder of locally developed cab-hailing start-up Call Car Bar (叫車吧), which has 1,000 drivers.

If drivers join the MPT program, they would need to comply with taxi regulations and would no longer be allowed to offer airport pickup services, Lai said.

In light of advanced technologies, the government should adapt to new concepts and supervisory methods for taxi and cab-hailing businesses such as Call Car Bar and Uber, Lai said.

“We are all angry, as the ministry is to sacrifice our rights to protect taxi drivers,” said Well Lee (李威爾), spokesperson of the Platform Driver Alliance, a group organized by Uber drivers.

The alliance is to protest, with a tentative date of April 21, he said, adding that most of Uber’s 10,000 drivers would participate.

The alliance has launched a petition urging the ministry to drop the proposed amendments, Lee said.

The petition has gained more than 100,000 signatures from Uber riders, he said.

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