Uber on! Ride-hailing firm performs U-turn and decides to stay in Macau

Company thanks the hundreds who took to the streets against the government’s crackdown on the operator and the thousands who backed signature campaign

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 September, 2016, 6:02pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 September, 2016, 8:03pm

Ride-hailing firm Uber has taken a U-turn over its decision to quit Macau and announced on Friday that it will keep operating in the casino enclave.

The change of heart came after more than 300 supporters of the taxi-like service took to the streets last Sunday to protest against the government’s crackdown on the company. They called for the Macau government to legalise ride-hailing businesses and accused the authorities of protecting the vested interests of the taxi trade.

Uber had earlier announced it would pull out of Macau on Friday, blaming heavy penalties imposed on its drivers, harassment of passengers and the authorities’ reluctance to regulate the car-sharing industry.

Macau protesters demand legalisation of Uber as ride-hailing company set to leave city

However, in a statement entitled “Thank you, Macau. Uber on!” issued by the Uber Macau team, it said they were grateful for the overwhelming support they had received in the past few weeks, including over 23,000 signatures backing their operation.

“We’ve heard every single one of you, and we could not be more grateful,” the statement said. “So, after much deliberation, Uber will continue to serve the riders and drivers of Macau.”

The city has a dire shortage of regular taxis and many drivers refuse to take locals, so there is great demand for Uber’s ride-hailing service. At present, there are over 1,300 taxis in Macau, which has a population of about 650,000 and an annual average of more than 30 million tourists.

Jeremy Lei Man-chao, spokesman for protest organiser the Macao Community Development Initiative, said he welcomed Uber’s decision to stay.

Too much risk and too little money deter Hong Kong Uber drivers

But he expressed worries about the government’s tougher stance on Uber, saying he had noticed more police being deployed to crack down on Uber drivers over the past few days.

“I really hope the government is willing to have a dialogue with Uber. Through legislative means I hope this kind of ride-hailing service can be operated lawfully in Macau,” he said.

Uber began operating in the enclave in October last year and has worked with over 2,000 full-time and part-time drivers, claiming it had generated HK$19.9 million in economic activity.

On Wednesday, Secretary for Security Wong Sio Chak stressed that using the Uber mobile application to call for cars was illegal and that police had a duty to enforce the law.

More than 300 Uber drivers have been fined a total of 10 million patacas since October.