Taiwan's Uber Drivers Protest Against Plan to Tighten Regulations

Taiwan's Uber Drivers Protest Against Plan to Tighten Regulations
Credit: Daphne K. Lee
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Uber drivers say the proposed 'Uber Clause' would force the ride-sharing giant out of business in Taiwan.

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Close to 1,000 Uber drivers protested in front of the Presidential Office on Sunday against the government’s proposed regulation to limit Uber’s business activities. In support of the protest, Uber also terminated its service for six hours on the same day.

In February, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) announced a draft amendment on Article 103-1 of “Regulations for Automobile Transportation Operators,” otherwise known as the “Uber Clause,” calling for stricter rules that would essentially force Uber out of business.

The amendment, if passed on April 26, would require Uber to charge customers by a minimum of one hour in any given trip, regardless of distance. Additionally, the rental car drivers working with Uber would have to return to their vehicle to the rental shop after every ride.

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Credit: CNA
Uber drivers protest outside Taiwan's Presidential Office on April 21, 2019.

According to Uber Taiwan, the amendment will affect at least 3 million riders and 10,000 Uber drivers. Passengers will have to pay for an hour-long fare even if the trip only lasts 10 minutes. Wait time will also increase significantly since every driver will have to return the vehicle to its “garage” before taking another customer.

“I’ll technically be unemployed if this regulation takes effect. Driving Uber is not my full-time job, but it makes up a big portion of my income. Some other drivers do solely depend on Uber to make a living,” said Wang Chun-hung, a part-time Uber driver.

About 200 Uber vehicles parked on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office Building to form a shape that read “103-1 NO.”

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Credit: Daphne K. Lee
Uber cars parked on Taipei's Ketagalan Boulevard on April 21, 2019.

At the protest site, hundreds of drivers gathered with their families to voice their disapproval of the Uber Clause, shouting slogans such as: “Rescind the evil law. Return our jobs.”

“Two years ago, we fought hard to have professional driving licenses applied to ride-hailing platforms. Now, the government is telling us that everything is illegal again and all our effort has gone to waste,” the host of the rally said to the crowd of protesters.

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Credit: Daphne K. Lee
Speakers at Sunday's rally address the crowd of protesters.

Uber, partnering with local ride-hailing apps like Call Car Bar, launched a petition against the upcoming amendment earlier this month. The petition has so far collected over 180,000 signatures.

In 2017, Uber suspended its operations in Taiwan for two months after it was fined NT$328.5 million (US$1.07 million) for unlicensed operations. The US-based company, however, reentered the market by collaborating with local car rental companies to provide licenses for Uber drivers.

The successful settlement of the dispute between the Taiwan government and Uber was hailed as a victory for vTaiwan, an online discussion platform designed to allow voters to reach consensus on divisive issues and proposed regulations.

But this resolution is now facing fresh government scrutiny, which has proven to be yet another challenge for the company’s operations in Taiwan.

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Credit: Daphne K. Lee
Uber drivers attend Sunday's protest in Taipei.

Emilie Potvin, Uber’s head of policy for North Asia, told Nikkei Asian Review on March 27 that Uber might have to exit Taiwan if government policy makes it too difficult for the company to “run properly.”

"If these regulations come into force, we will have to reconsider all these programs,'' Potvin said.

Read Next: Uber Taiwan Is Back. What Is the New Business Model Like?

Editor: Nick Aspinwall (@Nick1Aspinwall)

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