Taiwan ministries disagree over Uber

TAIPEI, Taiwan - The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) has expressed support for the controversial car-hire service Uber, but the transport minister has described it as unfair competition.

The MOEA has proposed an economy-boosting plan leveraging on smart technology, a part of which will support the kind of car-hire service provided by Uber.

Kan Wei-chi, an official from a MOEA research and development unit, said the government's promotion of smart-city policies must be supported by legal changes that keep up with advances in technology.

Kan said some cities have banned Uber out of safety concerns. But in a sharing economy, the law must be changed along with the development of technological applications, the official said.

Kan said that the Transport Ministry is in charge of dealing with Uber, and she is not certain about the progress in the transportation authorities' internal discussion concerning similar car-hire operations.

Uber services have been banned in many cities and protested by taxi companies accusing them of running illegal operations.

Transport Minister Chen Jian-yu said the introduction of Uber is beneficial to a country in terms of technology, but due to safety concerns, more and more countries are banning the service.

Chen said his ministry cannot turn a blind eye to unlicensed car-hire service providers' unfair competition against taxi and car rental firms that have to obtain permits.

Uber has obtained a commercial registration for information services, but its actual operation is to help participating cars run illegal taxi services, Chen said.

The Transport Ministry has so far meted out fines totaling NT$37 million (S$1.6 million) for Uber since last September, according to the Central News Agency.

The Transport Ministry has rejected Uber's numerous appeals against the fines. Uber has now filed a lawsuit with an administrative court seeking to overturn the ministry's decision, the CNA said.

TaiwanTaxi, one of the major taxi firms in Taipei, said Uber is manipulating a legal loophole, which offers no protection for consumers.

In contrast to regular taxis whose drivers have to obtain licenses and whose fares are standardized, Uber allows any private cars to join its service network, which is clearly illegal, TaiwanTaxi said.

TaiwanTaxi said it welcomes innovative business models, but competition must occur within the limits set out by law.