After facing numerous obstacles in Taiwan over the past year, Uber opted to work with local taxi operators and plans to launch a new service called UberTAXI in February.
However, Taiwan’s Ministry of Transportation and Communications, said the ride-hailing app company would continue to operate illegally and would be ordered to terminate its service if it uses drivers who don’t have a commercial vehicle licence, the Taipei Times reported.
Uber Taiwan reached out to the Taxi Driver Labor Union after the government raised the maximum fine for illegal taxi operators to TWD25 million ($790,600).
The new service, initially targeted at the greater Taipei area, will allow users to book rides using the Uber app, though they will be charged the standard rates set by taxis operating in Taipei.
Despite its partnership with the union, the company said it will continue to operator its UberX, UberBlack and UberAssist services, which use non-licensed drivers, the Times reported.
“The partnership [with the union] demonstrates Uber’s commitment to the Taiwanese market. We will continue our negotiations with government agencies and hope that the government would draft appropriate laws to regulate ride-sharing services,” Uber Taiwan GM Ku Li-kai told the newspaper.
Union chairman Lin Sheng-he said Uber’s technology can help drivers find more passengers and boost their income. A survey found 60 per cent to 70 per cent of union members are interested in being Uber drivers if its platform can match ride requests with regulated taxi drivers. However, the partnership would end if Uber continues to use illegal taxi drivers, he insisted.
The country’s Investment Commission said in August Uber may be asked to leave Taiwan because it operates as an internet-based technology platform rather than a transportation service and has misrepresented the nature of its operations. The government said Uber owes sales taxes estimated at nearly TWD100 million.
The Taipei City Professional Drivers’ Union filed a formal complaint in early August against Uber Taiwan for tax evasion.
In November government officials said they planned to ask Apple and Google to remove the Uber app from their app stores as the government put pressure on the ride-hailing company to halt its businesses in the country.
Uber is not new to controversy over its business model and practices and faced challenges from many governments and taxi groups over its legal status.