Uber has resumed in Taiwan with a limited version of its ride-hailing service Thursday, as the scandal-hit firm struggles to get back on the road in the nation after regulatory wrangling with the government.
The ride-share smartphone app, which has faced a barrage of regulatory challenges around the world as well as a slew of recent negative revelations about its corporate culture, is returning to Taiwan with a new business model partnering with local car hire firms.
Uber suspended operations on the island in February after sparring with the government, which said it was illegally operating without proper registration as a taxi service and slapped it with massive fines.
Local media has reported that the company, which first launched in Taiwan in 2013, still owes about TWD 830 million ($27.4 million).
Uber has not confirmed that number, but on Thursday Taiwan general manager Likai Gu said that it was appealing against its outstanding fines.
In a statement that said its return to the island came after “constructive talks” with the government, the firm acknowledged that the new business model in Taiwan was a departure from its standard ride-sharing service.
“We want to partner with more legal transportation service partners in weeks and months to come, whether they be from rental car companies or the taxi industry,” Gu said.
Uber drivers now need to be affiliated with a licensed car rental company and obtain a professional driver’s license, in a move that the firm said was aimed at finding a service the government was comfortable with.
In January, authorities hiked the maximum possible penalty for Uber drivers to TWD 25 million – the highest in the world.
“We need to tailor our approach in every market given the circumstances,” Michael Brown, the firm’s regional general manager, told reporters at a press conference in Taipei.
San Francisco-based Uber has faced stiff resistance from traditional taxi drivers across the world, as well as bans in some places over safety concerns and tax issues.
However, the firm insists it is not a transport company like taxi operators, and that it is simply a platform connecting drivers and passengers.
The firm is also reeling from disclosures about a culture of sexism, cut-throat workplace tactics and covert use of law enforcement-evading software.