Uber Technologies said it will suspend its service in Taiwan from Feb. 10, firing the latest salvo in the ride-hailing service company’s long-running dispute with the island’s authorities over mounting fines.
Uber’s move comes after Taiwan recently raised fines against unlicensed ride-sharing services, targeted at Uber, which the company said were the highest in the world. Taiwan has maintained Uber’s business is illegal, and at one point last year even considered ordering it to leave the domestic market.
The U.S.-based firm has been asked to pay T$328.59 million ($10.57 million) in fines so far, with over half the sum slapped on it since early January, when higher penalties of as much as T$25 million per infraction took effect, according to figures from Taiwan ‘s Ministry of Transportation and Communications. Uber has paid T$68.25 million to date, the ministry said.
The company has protested fines against it and defended its model, and in November issued an open letter to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen to intervene, appealing to her push to turn Taiwan into a Silicon Valley in Asia.
But the higher fines seem to have driven matters to a head.
“We will pause our operations until the president and her government find a solution,” Damian Kassabgi, director of Uber’s public policy in Asia-Pacific, said in an emailed statement. Uber said there was no timeline for how long the suspension would last.
Uber operates in Taiwan as an internet-based technology platform rather than as a transportation company, which local taxi companies and Taiwan ese authorities have said is a misrepresentation of its service.
The company has argued that it provides a technology service and has said there are over 10,000 driver-partners, mainly local citizens, registered on its platform in Taiwan who use the opportunity afforded by Uber to earn money.
Hu Ti-chi, a ministry official, said if Uber is not regulated as a transportation company, it can be regulated as a transportation service provider and collaborate with local taxi companies. There was room to discuss how it could be regulated, Hu said.
Uber said in a statement that it had taken the initiative in discussions with Taiwan , including securing local insurance and reaching out to collaborate with the local taxi industry.