Uber to Suspend Operations in Taiwan Citing Fines

Uber Technologies has decided to suspend its services in Taiwan from February 10 with an eye on the exorbitant fines that have been imposed on the ride-hailing service company.

Damian Kassabgi, director of Uber’s public policy in Asia-Pacific, commented in an email statement that the company’s services had been suspended in the island nation “until the president and her government find a solution”.

Uber termed its decision as a “difficult” one. It added that the company had helped facilitate almost 15 million trips during its four years of operation in the East Asian country.

Uber’s move is inspired by the recent string of fines imposed on it by Taiwanese authorities. A recent surge in fines against unlicensed ride-sharing services –believed to be primarily aimed at Uber– comes after the San Francisco-based online transportation network company had been slapped with fines amounting to 328.59 million New Taiwan dollars (USD 10.57 million) thus far. Half of that sum has been imposed since January 6 this year, with penalties increasing to a whopping NT$25 million for every infringement. According to Taiwan’s Ministry of Transportation and Communications, Uber has paid NT$68.25 million in fines to date. Taiwan has, for some time now, maintained that Uber’s business is illegal.

The issue stems from the fact that Taiwanese authorities have seen Uber’s internet-based technology operations as a “misrepresentation” of its transportation activities. They have maintained that Uber only has permission to function as a tech company in the country, and not provide transportation services. Uber has, meanwhile, continuously defended its model while always criticizing the fines. The company’s open letter to President Tsai Ing-wen in November last year seemed to have had little effect as the fines kept going through the roof.

In its statement, the company expressed its hope that the decision to withdraw would force the country’s leadership to give it another thought. According to Uber, the company has more than 10,000 driver-partners, most of whom are locals, registered on its platform in Taiwan. The company added that it has offered them the opportunity to earn money, besides criticizing the Taiwanese government for failing to embrace innovation.

“We have not made this decision lightly, as we know it will have a significant impact on hundreds of thousands of drivers and riders,” Uber said. “Unfortunately, the government has moved further and further away from embracing innovation and setting the stage for a 21st century transportation policy.”

“We hope that pressing (the) pause (button) will reset the conversation and inspire President Tsai to take action,” Uber commented, without mentioning the period of suspension.

The setback in Taiwan will only add to the company’s woes as it faces a severe backlash from labor groups and governments all across the globe. The company was forced to sell its business to rival Didi Chuxing in China last year. It had also decided to pull out of Macau owing to huge fines. The plans were, however, dropped later citing support from locals. The company has also faced stiff resistance in Japan. An ongoing legal battle and widespread public criticism in Argentina sum up how the American startup is struggling to find its feet around the world.

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