Thousands of Uber drivers protest in Taiwan on Tuesday against new rules restricting the use of e-hailing apps. Photo: Handout

Some 2,000 drivers including those working for Uber rallied outside a district consultation meeting in Taipei this afternoon. The protest is against the authorities’ move to restrict the use of e-hailing apps by rental car operators.

Uber drivers excluded from the 60-day public consultation met under the banner of the Platform Drivers’ Alliance group has cried foul at “unfair regulations” being proposed.

In February two years ago Uber was forced to suspend operations in Taiwan. But two months later the ride-sharing app agreed with Taiwan’s Ministry of Transport and Communications to restart its service under a unique business model: partnering with local rental-car companies, for a deal that did not exist anywhere else in the world.

Uber has subsequently recruited over 10,000 driver partners and amassed a user-base of some three million passengers across the island.

Uber has been partnering with local rental-car operators in Taiwan following its overhaul in 2017. Photo: Handout

Nonetheless, Taiwan’s transport ministry proposed abrupt changes to the existing rental-car regulations last month. It is feared that the new rules, if introduced, will have a big impact on the livelihood of thousands of drivers.

The ministry has said it will come up with a decision in less than a month after consulting with the public on how to regulate e-hailing.

Uber said the proposed regulation changes only affect rental-car companies using e-hailing apps, which were conceived to protect Taiwan’s taxi industry, as well as some 80,000 drivers.

The new proposals include a minimum one-hour rental requirement with restrictions on discounts or promotions as incentives, and rental vehicles will be required to “return to garage” between trips.

If the new proposals are enacted, they will devastate drivers and rental companies’ livelihoods, stifle innovation and make transport considerably less efficient in Taiwan, Uber says.

It also alleges that many of the most important stakeholders including drivers, rental-car companies, e-hailing platforms as well as riders are being excluded from the discussions. Three district consultation meetings have been held so far but neither drivers nor e-hailing app operators were invited to attend.

Nikkei Asian Review and Taipei Times reported last week that Uber would have to reconsider its business model in Taiwan after the policy shift.

Uber, meanwhile, has invited Taiwan’s taxi drivers to join its app to provide access to three million Uber users, as well as to enjoy efficient matching of passengers with taxis, cashless payments, dynamic pricing and other mapping and safety features.

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