Wed, Oct 10, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Taxi industry alliance slams MOTC on Uber ‘loophole’

DIGGING UP EXCUSES?The ministry’s decision that a 1959 interpretation of the Highway Act might allow for Uber to operate in Taiwan was wrong, the alliance said

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

The Taiwan Taxi Industry Development Alliance yesterday accused the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) of favoring Uber by using outdated regulations to legitimatize its business, and vowed to hold more protests.

The ministry has announced that an interpretation of the Highway Act (公路法) made in 1959 did not exclude car rental businesses from operating a taxi businesses, and said that this might make Uber Taiwan’s business model legal after all.

Uber has contravened Article 34 of the act, which regulates car rental businesses, alliance spokesperson Cheng Li-chia (鄭力嘉) said, adding that Uber’s business model was designed to blur the difference between a car rental service and taxi service.

“A car rental business is different from the taxicab business in that the former leases vehicles for other people to use. As such, the focus of the regulations applying to a car rental business and a taxicab service are completely different,” Cheng said.

One major difference is the qualifications of drivers, he said.

Taxi drivers can only receive their cab licenses after their backgrounds are vetted by local police departments, which regularly monitor taxi drivers and their records, Cheng said.

Although Uber claims that each of its hired drivers has a clean criminal record, certified by the police, Cheng said such certificates are simply meant to hoodwink the public, as Taiwan has no regulations requiring a background check for drivers hired to drive a rental car.

No one knows if Uber conducts the background checks for all the drivers by itself or if a driver’s criminal record certificate is up to date, he said.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan last year ordered Uber to halt its operations in that city because its service has contributed to an increase in sexual assaults and harassment cases, but the ministry is disregarding public safety by allowing Uber to exploit a legal loophole to it can operate in Taiwan, he said.

The alliance suspects senior government officials might be intervening in matters related to Uber, which would explain why the ministry is allowing Uber to operate, he said.

“The fact that the ministry has to use an interpretation from 1959 shows that Uber has violated the Highway Act and that the ministry has made a strenuous effort to find an excuse to legitimize Uber’s existence. How can the government expect people to follow the law if it is taking the lead to break it,” the alliance said.

The ministry’s interpretation on Monday was criticized by some lawmakers on the legislature’s Transportation Committee.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) said Uber is offering a taxi service and should therefore follow regulations applicable to taxi operators.

The ministry should not use two different standards to regulate Uber and taxi operators, Lin said.

A 2016 amendment to the act increased the fine for illegal operations of a taxi service to a maximum of NT$25 million (US$807,285).

Data from the Directorate-General of Highways showed that Uber and its drivers have accumulated about NT$2.54 billion in fines, but the company has only paid NT$65.46 million.

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