Uber South Korea execs charged with violating law

In the most recent legal challenge to the ride-sharing app, Uber executives and employees have been charged by Seoul District Police for breaching the transportation laws of South Korea.
Written by Staff ZDNet Asia, Contributor and  Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Executives at taxi-hailing service Uber's South Korean office have been charged by local police for violating the nation's transportation law.

Seoul District Police booked Uber's South Korea brand manager, along with other employees and drivers. Authorities seized a total of 432 items to be used as evidence, including handsets that Uber Korea distributed to its drivers.

Uber is under suspicion of breaking the local transportation law, which forbids unregistered transportation services from operating, by partnering up with local rental car service companies and having unlicensed drivers use the app to lure customers. The company reportedly received 20 percent in commission from its car rental partnerships.

Uber is also under investigation for allegedly breaching South Korea's information laws by not registering its app with the Korea Communication Commission (KCC), the nation's telco watchdog, and unlawfully collecting customer information.

"Uber's service is used worldwide, but most of its cars and drivers are unlicensed," said a spokesperson for Seoul District Police. "It disturbs the cab industry, and they are not paying any taxes because there are no proper taxation processes in place."

Seoul District Police also plans to summon Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, and investigate the company for further unjust profits.

An Uber South Korea spokesperson said that the firm has been cooperating with the police fully, but denied any wrongdoing.

Uber's legal issues extend worldwide, with the company facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, cease-and-desist notices, and threats of litigation since launching in Australia; private cars being banned in mid January from all ride-hailing taxi apps in China; tens of thousands of dollars in penalties being issued throughout Taiwan as of December; and the São Paulo Mayor's office in Brazil fining several drivers $900 on average for operating taxi services without legal authorisation in August.

In India, Uber was threatened with shutdown in October if it did not alter its business model to offer a two-step authentication process for its payment service. As a result, Uber introduced a mobile wallet link-up with Paytm in November. However, a month later, the government banned Uber from operating in New Delhi, when 32-year-old driver Shiv Kumar Yadav was charged with allegedly raping a 26-year-old female passenger.

Despite this, Uber relaunched in India within six weeks, resuming operations under a radio taxi licence. Last month, it emphasised its enhanced security, stating that it would be implementing an in-app SOS panic button, and would be sharing all driver and vehicle data with the Transportation Department and traffic police.

Similarly, in December last year, an Uber driver in Boston was charged with the alleged sexual assault of a passenger. Uber's head of global safety Phillip Gardenas responded by saying that the company would work on developing biometric and voice-verification systems and polygraph tests for its global screening processes.

Uber was also forced to suspend operations in Portland, Oregon, for three months from late December while the city works on establishing regulatory guidelines for taxi apps.

Despite these universal legal challenges, Uber saw the value of its Series E round of venture funding rise by $1 billion to $2.2 billion just last month, with the round's total capacity reportedly reaching $2.8 billion.

Source: ZDNet Korea (zdnet.co.kr)

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