Uber can provide taxi services in Taiwan if it conducts its business according to the government’s regulations and engages in fair competitive practices, Minister of Transportation and Communications Hochen Tan (賀陳旦) said yesterday.
The minister made the comments after both Uber and taxi operators appealed to the public by talking on radio shows on Monday and yesterday.
Uber said that the nation has yet to have rules in place to regulate innovative services like Uber, while taxi operators said that they would support the government’s diversified taxi service policy only if the government asks Uber, which has been operating illegally for three years, to withdraw its investment from Taiwan.
Hochen also went on a Taipei Pop Radio show to talk about some of the significant challenges facing the ministry, and issues concerning Uber and its drivers were again on the show’s agenda.
He said that Uber is a company developing a taxi business in Taiwan by using a technology that was made possible through the Internet, adding that it should not be given special treatment just because it is widely perceived as an example of the sharing economy.
People should “call a spade a spade,” he said.
Hochen said that the government considers that taxi services are, in a broader sense, a part of the public transport system.
As such, the government provides subsidies to taxi operators and expects them to offer safe and professional services to the public, he said, adding that laws require taxi operators to meet such expectations.
Uber must fulfill these legal requirements if it wants to be a legitimate taxi-service provider, he said.
Existing taxi operators should be encouraged to use the Internet, as well as branding strategies to develop new services, he added.
Asked if the ministry would consider proposing a new act only to regulate innovative services like Uber, Hochen said that such a bill is not likely to secure legislative approval because it would essentially encourage unfair competitive practices.
“I don’t think that special legislation for services like Uber is the easiest way to take to resolve all the problems, unless the company can make a case that its business model actually facilitates fair competition in the market,” he said.
Hochen said that any new act would have to identify the obligations of a taxi service provider, including hiring only certified drivers and paying taxes, he said.
The act would not encourage fair competition if none of these obligations were mentioned, he added.
“The trend in the service industry is to give consumers the freedom to choose, but the ministry has to make it clear to people the price they have to pay for making that choice, and the foundation that the choice is built on,” he said.
“We hope that Uber can truthfully reflect the incurred costs on its operation to fulfill the government’s requirement for safe and professional service,” Hochen said, adding that the government simply cannot ignore risks that consumers might be exposed to if they choose Uber services.
Hochen told taxi operators they cannot disregard competition from Uber.
“The government will continue fining Uber and its drivers. However, legal taxi operators should also offer quality services, enhancing their corporate image. They should work with us and discuss with us any regulatory changes that would reinforce their competitive edge,” he added.
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