Tue, Oct 03, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Ex-Uber drivers alleged to use Line to offer rides

LEGISLATIVE COMPLAINTS:One lawmaker said chat groups on Line are being used by former Uber drivers to offer illegal taxi services in Taichung and elsewhere

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Former Uber drivers are using the text-messaging application Line to offer illegal taxi services now that the government has practically driven Uber Taiwan out of the market, lawmakers said yesterday.

The taxi-hailing service temporarily ceased local operations in February after the maximum fine for the operation of illegal passenger transportation services was raised on Jan. 6 to NT$25 million (US$822,016).

It relaunched its ride-hailing service in Taipei in April by partnering with 10 licensed car rental operators to comply with local regulations, and last month said it would launch “UberTAXI” in Taipei this month in collaboration with two taxi companies.

In yesterday’s meeting of the legislature’s Transportation Committee, New Power Party Legislator Hung Tzu-yung (洪慈庸) said that former Uber drivers are still offering illegal offer taxi services, coordinating with one another through chat groups on Line.

One such group was called “TCT” and was said to serve hundreds of people in central Taiwan, Hung said, adding that the number of drivers in the group continues to increase.

Even though the Ministry of Transportation and Communications has tried to introduce diversified taxi services as a way to offer consumers different options, drivers for such services are asked not to charge less than regular taxi fares, which could make them less competitive than illegal taxi drivers, whose fees are usually below official taxi fares, Hung said.

Such illegal operations do not just exist in Taichung, but all over Taiwan, and the ministry should increase its efforts to crackdown on such underground services, Hung said.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Cheng Pao-ching (鄭寶清) said Uber still has not paid all the fines the ministry imposed on it.

The ministry needs to address the issues caused by the integration of technology and taxi services, Cheng said.

Directorate-General of Highways Director-General Chen Yen-po (陳彥伯) told the committee that it is difficult to crack down on unlicensed taxi drivers because the way they offer services makes them look no different from regular small car drivers.

It takes skill to conduct inspections and collect evidence to prove that such drivers are violating the law, he said.

The directorate would work with the Taichung Transportation Bureau to enforce the crackdown more effectively, Chen said.

Minister of Transportation and Communications Hochen Tan (賀陳旦) told the committee that diversified taxi services are still in the trial stage and the ministry would review the results of the trials and devise ways to help more unlicensed taxi drivers become legal drivers.

The ministry might consider adjusting taxi fares to help drivers of diversified taxi services become more competitive, Hochen told the committee.

“We do not want to ban innovative service models if they can guarantee not to compromise the safety and interests of passengers,” he said.

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