Taiwan fines Uber for illegal operation in latest setback

Taiwan fines Uber for illegal operation in latest setback

TAIPEI - Taiwan has slapped a string of fines on app-based taxi service Uber for operating illegally, the latest blow to the US company which is embroiled in a number of international disputes.

A spokesman for the island's highways department said popular but controversial Uber had registered with the government as a company, but had not declared that it was offering transport services.

The authorities have ramped up their investigation into the firm in response to anger from other taxi drivers who said their income had been hit unfairly by the app.

Uber said Tuesday it was in talks over the penalties.

"We have had many constructive conversations with the local authorities and hope to continue those engagements," Uber said in a statement to AFP.

"We are following all legal due processes with regards to the appeals."

The highways unit has handed down 30 fines to Uber totalling Tw$2.55 million (S$106,300) since September for breaking transport laws against operating without a licence.

A total of 33 local drivers are also facing combined fines of Tw$1.65 million for the same offence.

"The company registered with the government as one whose business covers information services but not transportation services, which is required by law for a transportation company," Liang Guo-guo, spokesman for the directorate general of highways, told AFP Monday.

"In response to complaints from local taxi drivers, we've stepped up our investigation into the matter and levied fines on the company," he said, adding that taxi drivers had also alleged that Uber was not paying the proper tax.

Highway authorities have called on people not to take Uber cars, warning that they may not be fully protected by the law should they encounter disputes or have their personal information leaked.

Liang said meetings would be held between the transport and economics ministries to discuss whether to withdraw Uber's company licence, but gave no time frame.

The company is appealing to the transport ministry over the fines, Liang added.

San Francisco-based Uber links up drivers and passengers through a mobile phone application.

Founded in 2009, it is valued at around US$40 billion (S$52.9 billion) and says it operates in 250 cities in 50 countries.

However, it is battling lawsuits for unfair competition and rising anger from taxi companies over its use of drivers who they say are not properly vetted and beholden to no one.

New Delhi this month banned Uber from operating in the Indian capital after a passenger accused one of its drivers of rape.

Thailand, the Netherlands and Spain have ruled it illegal and Denmark and Norway have filed complaints against the company.

Belgium last week said it would launch an investigation into Uber's tax affairs.

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