Uber halts services in Taiwan after racking up $50 million in fines in a month

Uber said it was suspending its operations with effect from Feb 10 with the hope of  "restarting dialogue" with the government to "innovate the transport technology" in Taiwan.
Uber said it was suspending its operations with effect from Feb 10 with the hope of "restarting dialogue" with the government to "innovate the transport technology" in Taiwan. PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI - Global car-hailing firm Uber is putting the brakes on its ride-sharing services in Taiwan after racking up NT$1.1 billion (S$49.9 million) in fines within a month in the wake of a new law prohibiting unlicensed taxi services.

The company said in a statement on Thursday (Feb 2) it was suspending its operations with effect from Feb 10 with the hope of  "restarting dialogue" with the government to "innovate the transport technology" in Taiwan. 

The decision came amid reports that the Directorate General of Highways, an arm of the Taiwan's Transport Ministry, had ordered Uber to cease operations.

Taiwan media reported that the company had been slapped with total fines of some NT$1.1 billion since Jan 6, when an amendment to the Highway Act that raises the maximum fine for illegal passenger transport services to NT$25 million took effect.

Calling the pullout a "tough decision", Uber said it is "an ordinary citizen that is facing unprecedented penalties for providing passengers with a safe ride".

It also said that the government is "moving away from embracing innovation and 21st century trends in transportation".  

The latest move comes ahead of the launch of the company's taxi services under its UberTaxi platform later this month. The launch is expected to go ahead.

Since Uber launched its service in Taiwan in 2013, it had made 15 million trips, the statement added. 

Some one million people in Taiwan have downloaded the Uber app and there are 10,000 active drivers.

Ceasing its ride-sharing services in Taiwan is the latest setback for Uber, which has faced pushback from regulators and drivers in many other markets. It pulled out of China last August and suspended its taxi and van services in Hong Kong."