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Uber to restart Taiwan operations after two-month pause
[TAIPEI] Uber said it would relaunch its ride-hailing service in Taiwan following a two-month hiatus on the island after sparring with authorities over legal issues.
The San Francisco-based giant, which has encountered regulatory roadblocks around the world despite its huge popularity, suspended operations in Taiwan in February due to an "impasse" with authorities who deemed it illegal.
But on Monday the company said it would be reentering the market with a new business model.
"A brand-new Uber will serve Taiwanese once again," it said in a statement, without providing details or a date for the restart.
A source at Uber who asked not to be named said the model would involve working with "legal car rental operators".
Since it entered the Taiwan market in 2013, Uber had been racking up fines for running a business without the proper registration to operate as a taxi service.
In January authorities hiked the maximum possible penalty to NT$25 million (S$1.15 million) per driver - the highest in the world.
The company withdrew from the market a month later, criticising the government's actions for hindering innovation and called on President Tsai Ing Wen to take action.
Taiwan's transport ministry said it would welcome Uber as long as it works with licensed private drivers.
"The problem with self-use drivers was competition and inadequate protection for customers," Hu Ti Chi, an official at the ministry's department of railways and highways, told AFP.
Local media reported that the firm still has about NT$830 million in outstanding fines.
Uber has faced stiff resistance from traditional taxi drivers across the world, as well as bans in some places over safety concerns.
In neighbouring Thailand police have threatened to shut down Uber and recently taken to arresting and fining its drivers.
However, the smartphone app insists it is not a transport company like taxi firms, and that it is simply a platform connecting drivers and passengers.
In Myanmar it says it is in talks with Yangon's regional government to launch in the city "very soon".