Former Uber Drivers Reappear in LINE Groups

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Since ride-hailing app Uber suspended operations in Taiwan on February 10 following increased fines due the Legislative Yuan passing an amendment to the “Highway Act,” its former drivers have sought recourse to continue earning income from residents’ desire for cheaper rides. The drivers have since reappeared through LINE groups promising rides with fares lower than taxis, China Times reported.

Local reporters have discovered numerous groups on the communication app platform, with an noted increase in groups and drivers since Uber was forced to close in Taiwan. Members of the groups have grown in size from about 2,600 people two months ago to more than 16,000.

One driver said that the group he joined was set up three days before Uber shut down. The popularity of the groups relied on Uber drivers having the contact information for regular customers who preferred their service. The groups have between 70 and 300 drivers, but very few are full time.

Many of the groups specifically offer tourism or airport service.

Reporters sampled four groups and found a bit of inconvenience with timing; groups note that customers may need to book rides more than 30 minutes ahead, and they use Google Maps to calculate distance. The fees for rides are “multiplied by oil subsidies with flag fall of NT$100 for 3-5 km and NT$20 per km after and a final additional NT$30 charge. At peak time, some groups add another NT$20-30. The overall price is slightly more expensive than Uber was but still cheaper than taxis, with long-distance rates 15-35% cheaper.

Another driver noted that while the groups don’t take a cut of the fare like Uber did, they don’t make as much money per day. He said that with Uber he could earn more than NT$2000 per day, but now it’s about NT$1500-2000.

While some of the LINE groups only accept drivers with previous records, like those who worked with Uber, there is no vetting mechanism to ensure safety of passengers. Some group administrators will request previous Uber records and require insurance for their passengers.

Uber today issued an invitation to a press conference on April 13, at which the company may announce that it will re-enter the Taiwan market. The company will unveil a new app and operations in Taiwan, but details were not revealed, though the company will abide by current laws.

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