Wed, Nov 11, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Taipei mulls Uber-like taxi app

CAMPAIGN PROMISE:Mayor Ko Wen-je said the city would prioritize development of an app to allow people to hail cabs, one of the promises made while campaigning

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) yesterday vowed to introduce an Internet-based app to help taxi drivers fend off competition from US transport service provider Uber.

Ko made the remark during a question-and-answer session at the Taipei City Council with Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) councilors Hsu Chia-pei (許家蓓) and Lee Ching-feng (李慶鋒).

Hsu said that drivers contracted by Uber do not need to be registered with the city’s Department of Economic Development, pay taxes or pass examinations.

“This is unfair, as anyone with some money and time on their hands can become a driver at Uber,” she said.

Hsu said the company is also free from the regulation of the city’s cab fare system.

Citing reports of the company hiking fares of rides that would normally cost less than NT$200 (US$6) to NT$500 during typhoons, she asked whether Ko’s administration is at its wits’ end over Uber.

Ko said the firm’s operations should be deemed illegal.

However, Department of Transportation Commissioner Chung Hui-yu (鍾慧諭) said that the Internet is a world dominated by successful people, and even though Uber has an intrusive business model, it boasts highly efficient use of resources.

“We would love to create a service that enables independent taxi drivers to accept orders via cellphones,” Chung said.

Ko echoed Chung’s comments.

“Uber derives its strength from the Internet,” Ko said.

“We will provide legal taxi drivers with a fighting chance via the Internet,” he added.

Ko said that the city would make the development of an app allowing people to hail cabs part of its policy to improve taxi drivers’ work conditions, which is one of the promises Ko made during his election campaign last year.

Taipei Department of Economic Development Commissioner Lin Chong-chieh (林崇傑) said the city government is fighting a legal battle with Uber over more than 3,000 penalties regarding the firm’s employees operating without licenses.

However, the company probably would not pull out of Taiwan any time soon, he said.

The Taipei High Court on Monday ruled in favor of Uber in a lawsuit that the Ministry of Transportation and Communications filed against the firm, in which it asked that its operations be suspended.

The ruling said that fines the ministry imposed on Uber, totaling NT$2.3 million, should be revoked.

The ruling can be appealed.

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