Tue, Dec 30, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Ministry in opposition to tech revolution, Uber says

PASSING THE BUCK:Government official Hu Ti-chi said Uber is not safe because the company can easily shift the blame if something happens to a passenger

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Undaunted by the penalties issued by the government, application-based taxi service provider Uber yesterday accused the Ministry of Transportation and Communications of blocking the development of Taipei by continuing to govern through what it called outdated thinking, and encouraged netizens to pledge their support for the new service.

Uber Taiwan general manager Gu Li-kai (顧立楷) issued a statement which said that the application attracted more than 100,000 users nationwide, adding that more than 1,000 drivers have become partners with Uber.

Gu said the service had enabled these drivers to raise their incomes by up to 50 percent. He cited the story of a driver surnamed Lin (林), who he said was able to buy his son a Lego building set for Christmas this year due to his extra income from Uber.

“Unfortunately, the ministry continues to fine Uber drivers and even revoke their driver’s licenses… The ministry encourages people to report drivers working for Uber, disregarding the public’s right to choose and diminishing the income of Uber drivers,” he said.

Gu said Uber has gained support from many experts and lawmakers, citing statements made by Feng Chia University Department of Transportation Technology and Management associate professor Lee Ker-tsung (李克聰) and former Google China president Lee Kai-fu (李開復).

Lee Ker-tsung was reported as saying that the ministry should consider incorporating Uber in its regulatory system instead of continuing to punish the operator.

Lee Kai-fu said on his Facebook page that the government is using outdated laws to chase away new technology, and likened the ministry’s mentality to that of an ostrich, salvaging the old taxi service at the expense of missing out on the high-tech revolution.

Gu said the company looks forward to communicating with Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) as well as other government officials and lawmakers.

Statistics from the Directorate General of Highways showed that, as of Saturday last week, Uber had been fined NT$5.85 million (US$184,200) for repeated violations of government regulations.

Meanwhile, drivers getting assignments from Uber had received fines of more than NT$2.95 million in total.

Ministry official Hu Ti-chi (胡迪琦) said that the ministry has never rejected any new technology, adding that it has advised Uber to follow government regulations by registering as a taxi business operator, or to form partnerships with legal rental car service operators.

“By registering as an information service operator, Uber can bypass requirements set to regulate taxicab businesses,” Hu said, adding that Uber can avoid paying taxes by having its headquarters located overseas.

However, Hu said that consumers would be exposed to risks if they use taxi services offered by Uber.

“Uber does not have formal employment relationships with the drivers getting assignments from it. It can easily pass the buck if something happens to a passenger,” she said. “The credit card payments are processed online via an offshore company registered in the Netherlands, and consumers would be doing this at the risk of having their credit card information stolen.”

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