Online driver and passenger networking company Uber and a few of its drivers face 10 alleged violations in Taiwan on the first day the island's revised Highway Act, which sets stricter punishment against illegal transportation services, was enforced, the Directorate General of Highways said.
The agency said that it was investigating 10 reported cases of violations involving Uber's drivers and if it determines there have indeed been violations against Taiwan's law banning private vehicles from being used to offer hired transportation services, the violators could face fines ranging from NT$100,000 (US$3,135) to as much as NT$25 million.
If any Uber drivers are found guilty, first time offenders will be punished with a NT$100,000 fine and the suspension of their driver's license and vehicle license plate for four months, the agency said.
Repeat offenders will face tougher punishment, with the fine to be raised to NT$200,000 on an offender who has committed at least five violations or more than two violations within six months, the agency added.
As for Uber, whose ride-sharing service is considered illegal in Taiwan, it could be slapped with a fine of NT$1 million if caught for the first time running a business in violation of the revised act.
The fine will be aggregated to the maximum amount of NT$25 million if more than six violations or more than three violations within six months are determined, the agency said.
Responding to the new law and potential penalties it faces, Uber released a statement on Friday saying that it will continue to support the drivers it cooperates with as well as the users of its transportation services.
"With heavy punishment on the road, it may let cooperative drivers more or less doubt the use of private cars in ride-sharing economic activities, but we will continue to support our cooperative drivers and users," Uber said.
An Uber driver, who declined to be named, said that like many other drivers who were in the wait-and-see mode on Friday, he did not go online to receive service calls that day.
Asked how long will he wait and see, he said he did not know, but disclosed that he could earn at least NT$40,000 to NT$50,000 a month by offering ride-sharing services for four to five hours a day.
The Legislative Yuan finalized on Dec. 16, 2016 a proposed amendment to the Highway Act targeting Uber by raising the maximum fine for the provision of illegal passenger transportation services to NT$25 million.
Under the bill, the maximum fine on operators of illegal transportation services will be raised from its current level of between NT$50,000 and NT$150,000 to between NT$100,000 and NT$25 million.
The bill, which began taking effect on Friday, also stipulates that operators who violate the law could be forced to shut down their business.
It establishes a reward system to encourage people to report illegal taxi services such as Uber's.
In addition, the amendment states that those caught driving for a ride-sharing company will have both their vehicle registration and driver's license suspended for four to 12 months, or terminated.
Uber was registered in Taiwan in July 2013 as an information services company, but local taxi drivers have accused the firm of illegally operating ride-sharing services.
It has more than 10,000 drivers locally and its app has been downloaded 1 million times in Taiwan.
The government has imposed multiple fines on Uber, but the company has ignored appeals by the authorities to stop providing its services and continues to operate, triggering major protests by taxi drivers, who have accused Uber drivers of not paying taxes on the income they earn, unlike licensed cab drivers.
According to the ministry, Uber had been fined a total of NT$68.45 million for 481 violations and its drivers have been fined NT$20.83 million as of Monday.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel
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