Uber drivers in Taiwan call for legalisation

Taipei, Feb 10 (IANS) Hundreds of Uber drivers joined in a motorcade in the Taiwan capital on Friday to protest against the transport authority’s decision last week to slap huge fines on the company, which led the global ride-hailing aggregator to suspend its services.

The motorcade, with cars sporting the company’s logos or slogans such as “Legalise Uber”, drove around the transportation authority’s building, Xinhua news agency reported.

Several protestors also sat in front of the building, holding placards calling for a meeting with the chief transportation official.

The official did not show up, but a representative of the authority appeared and promised to schedule a discussion with Uber drivers within seven days.

The US-based ride-hailing app announced last week that it would suspend services in Taiwan starting February 10 following the transportation authority’s issuance of 11 fines for Uber, totalling over 230 million new Taiwan dollars ($7.4 million)

Taiwan regards Uber’s services as illegal, saying the company is not registered as a taxi service and, as such, allegations of tax avoidance have also emerged.

“We’re not a taxi company, so it’s absurd to ask us to register as one. We are a smartphone application that connects people willing to share their ride with people needing one,” Uber responded earlier in a statement.

Uber entered Taiwan in 2013 and, up until the suspension, operated in four cities, including Taipei and Kaohsiung. It said it had provided 15 million trips, with more than one million people having downloaded the app and 16,000 citizens signing up as drivers.

Local taxi drivers accuse the firm of operating illegally, which has affected their business.

On Friday, Uber released a farewell letter saying it was unwilling to, and hoped it was not forced to, withdraw from Taiwan.