Taiwanese Government to Combat Uber with 'Diversified Taxis'

Taiwanese Government to Combat Uber with 'Diversified Taxis'
Photo Credit: 黃燕茹

What you need to know

A Taiwanese version of a popular ride-sharing app is in the works to curb Uber's expansion in the country.

In its continued efforts to curb Uber’s expansion in Taiwan, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) on July 26 announced plans to diversify taxi services, which will be allowed to set their own rates and use various colors for their vehicles, but with some limitations that will not apply to traditional yellow cabs.

Under the new plan, the MOTC intends to loosen restrictions on vehicle types for the new taxis, and drivers will no longer have to affix a top light to their vehicles as long as the car can be easily identified as a taxi. However, alternative taxi companies will only be allowed to provide services through mobile applications and will be barred from picking up customers who hail them on roadsides.

The ride hailing apps should display the vehicle's license plate, vehicle type, the driver’s name and photograph, as well as customer reviews, an estimated fare and a suggested route.

Local media have noted the similarities with the Uber app.

MOTC Administrative Deputy Minister Fan Chih-Ku (范植谷) said that plans to implement government-regulated taxi services began last year, as part of a move to protect local taxi operators from losing out to Uber.

Amendments to existing regulations will be announced by the end of the year, and the new taxi services will start operating by early 2017.

Since Uber entered the Taiwanese market in 2013, it has been ruled illegal, slapped with fines of over NT$60 million (US$1.8 million), and faced fervent objection from local taxi drivers and operators.

Earlier this month, taxi driver unions staged a protest against Uber by occupying Ketagalan Boulevard with 2,000 yellow cabs. Another protest, scheduled for Aug. 11, is in the works.

Uber is registered in Taiwan as an information management company, but the government sees it as a transportation services company. The Investment Commission has said it would revoke Uber’s business license if they did not alter it to reflect their true business.

Ku Li-kai (顧立楷), general manager of Uber Taiwan, penned an open letter expressing the company’s willingness to work with the Taiwanese government to establish new regulations to promote a “sharing economy” in Taiwan. He also maintains Uber’s stance as an information management company, noting that Taiwan “has no lack of taxi companies.”

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole