Ride-sharing app service Uber has responded to a one-month ban in the Philippines by appealing to authorities on August 15. The company resumed services as it waited for a decision, Reuters reported. The suspension is one of many issues the Californian firm has faced recently, including controversy surrounding its former CEO Travis Kalanick.
Uber’s services in the Philippines were halted on August 14 by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) because the company ignored an order to stop accepting new driver applications. Despite the ban, Uber maintains a strong following in the country. Citizens lashed out at authorities on social media calling for Uber to continue its services.
The Philippines lacks in areas of reliable and competitive public transport, hence Uber’s popularity on the island nation. The company said it had the right to due process in its appeal to the LTFRB, and wanted a stay of implementation of the suspension.
Uber posted on Facebook, “This means that Uber’s operations will continue until the motion is resolved.” It added: “Over the course of this morning, tens of thousands of riders were left stranded, causing needless inconvenience, while drivers were unable to access the earning opportunities they rely on.”
Uber, one of the world’s most affluent startups valued at upwards of $60 billion, has faced a number of controversies over the past year. Taiwan banned the service for two months at the beginning of 2017, and Uber was only granted permission to continue serving the capital city Taipei by using licensed commercial drivers, rather than its usual private drivers.
A statement on Uber’s website in April it said would now be “partnering with licensed rental car companies to resume serving riders in Taipei… after constructive talks with transportation authorities.” Uber Taiwan’s General Manager, Likai Gu, said the company wants to “partner with more legal transportation service partners in weeks and months to come.”
Uber’s controversy in Taiwan began in 2016 after authorities claimed it was operating unlawfully. Taxi companies are legally required to be domestically owned and operated under Taiwanese law. The company was then forced to suspend its services, after police spent months cracking down on Uber drivers in Taipei.
In the Philippines, the LTFRB stopped accepting and processing applications for all ride-sharing services in 2016, including Uber, to study further how to regulate the industry. Controversy ignited when Uber admitted it was still accepting new driver applications because of strong demand, despite not processing them.
LTFRB responded by suspending Uber’s services, due to the “irresponsible” behavior of Uber in “unduly challenging the limit of fair regulation” by ignoring the LTFRB’s instructions and continuing to accept driver applications.
In Uber’s defense, Grace Poe, a senator and strong advocate for improving transport services in the Philippines, said the LTFRB’s suspension of Uber was “cruel and absurd.” She claimed that suspending the service “further exacerbates the problem of having an utter lack of safe, reliable and convenient transportation options” for the people of the Philippines.
Uber also faced backlash in Europe recently, when Madrid authorities in Spain asked the anti-trust watchdog to investigate whether the company’s new cheap airport transfer service had broken competition rules.
The competition regulator, CNMC, called for the government to lift a ban on Uber last year. But Uber’s new airport service reignited scrutiny, since it offers a tariff of 15-19 euros for a ride between Madrid’s Barajas international airport and the city center, which is cheaper than the standard fixed taxi rate of 30 euros.
“[Uber Airport] could violate several articles of the Law of Unfair Competition and consumer rights, if it is proven that the service is being operated at prices below operational costs with the sole intention of gaining customers through unfair competition,” said the Madrid City Council in a statement.
In Spain, taxi drivers have gone on strike three times this year, according to reports, arguing that ride-hailing apps like Uber, which are regulated under VTC licenses (an authorization to rent vehicles with driver), often used for private chauffer services, constitute unfair competition because they do not meet the current regulations and pay less tax than taxi services.
There are currently more than 2,000 VTC-licensed taxis in Madrid, the only Spanish city where Uber is currently active, and about 15,000 traditional taxis, according to figures from the Ministry of Public Works. The European Court of Justice recently ruled that Uber should be defined as a transport service rather than an app.
Internally, Uber’s stability has been rocked by the sensational resignation former chief executive, Travis Kalanick. The co-founder stepped down in late June under increased pressure from investors who raised concerns about his leadership. A growing momentum of voices demanded changes at the helm, and it was the call from investors that ultimately forced Kalanick to concede that his position was untenable.
One of Uber’s early investors, venture capital firm Benchmark Capital, has accused Kalanick of conspiring to return to his role as CEO. The firm gave Uber and Kalanick a month to review its recommendations on August 14 before filing a lawsuit the week before to force Kalanick off the company’s board and remove the ability for him to return, Reuters said. Kalanick fired back in defense claiming he’s working with the board to place a new chief executive.
“I am disappointed and baffled by Benchmark's hostile actions, which clearly are not in the best interests of Uber and its employees on whose behalf they claim to be acting,” Kalanick said in a statement.
Benchmark Capital, which owns 13 percent of Uber and controls 20 percent of the voting power, claimed in the lawsuit, “Indeed, it has appeared at times as if the search [for a new CEO] was being manipulated to deter candidates and create a power vacuum in which Travis could return.”
Founded in 2009, Uber has been a pioneer in the sharing economy. But the company has also been the subject of various protests and legal actions, and was even subject to an investigation of a former employee accused of engaging in sexual harassment. Some analysts claim the organization embodies many of co-founder Kalanick’s pugnacious personality traits.