Uber announces return to Taiwan

Taipei--Uber Technologies Inc., a U.S-based ride-sharing company, announced on Thursday its return to Taiwan with a new business model that involves cooperating with car rental companies.

Mike Brown, Uber Asia-Pacific regional general manager, called the suspension of its service two months ago an "incredibly difficult decision," but said the company was happy to "bring Uber back."

In every country it operates, Uber Technologies knows it "must fit into the local content, the local culture and of course, the local laws," he said, noting that the company decided to work with local car rental companies after communicating with the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC).

Likai Gu (???), general manager of Uber Taipei, said the company will work with more than a dozen car rental companies and its Uber app has updated the pricing model.

Gu said the company spent a lot of time communicating with the government when developing the new business model and car rental companies will now find it easier to find customers.

He said the company discussed the pricing model with Transportation Minister Ho Chen Tan (???) and believes it allows Uber to operate legally under existing laws.

Real time car fares will be quoted according to the traffic situation and the time and place a car is hailed, he said.

He noted that the new model means Uber and the car rental companies will share riding fares, not the drivers as in the past.

The relaunch of Uber's service will start in Taipei and be gradually expanded to other areas, Gu said.

Asked about fines slapped on the company and unpaid taxes, Gu said the company would continue to communicate with the government.

On the issue of fines, Gu said that legal proceedings are under way and Uber is in contact with the Ministry of Finance and the National Taxation Bureau over unpaid taxes.

He stressed that Uber will respect the "three principles" set by the government which asks the company to pay local taxes, be covered by insurance and regulated by the government to operate legally in Taiwan.

The Ministry of Finance said as of Wednesday, Uber had unpaid taxes of NT135 million (US$4.45 million), adding that it has provisionally seized NT$10 million held in Uber bank accounts and banned the company's executives from leaving the country.

The ministry said Uber will be fined again at the end of the month for tax evasion from July 2016 to February.

Uber, first launched in Taiwan in 2013, reportedly offering better services than local taxis and providing a more comfortable ride at lower prices.

However, because the company registered in Taiwan as an information services firm, it did not have legal permission to operate transportation services, which led to protests from taxi drivers and resulted in fines from the government.

Fines slapped on Uber increased sharply after an amendment to the Highway Act was passed in December 2016, which increased the maximum fine against operators of illegal transportation services from NT$50,000-NT$150,000 to NT$100,000-NT$25 million.

Uber suspended its services on Feb. 10 amid media reports that the transporation ministry was about to order it to halt its operations in Taiwan.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel