An alliance of 17 taxi groups is gearing up for a head-on battle against ride-hailing firm Uber with a forthcoming app that it claims can match the popular Uber app, and do more besides. “Whatever Uber can do, we do it better. Whatever Uber cannot do, we can,” declared Hung Wing-tat, chairman of the Hong Kong Taxi Council, an organisation comprising taxi owners, drivers and other stakeholders, which promotes service and development of the taxi industry. He announced on Wednesday that the council would launch the app, called eTaxi, in the coming months, with plans to ultimately include all the city’s 40,000 taxi drivers in the service. Hung said the council was still inviting drivers to join the platform, which would be officially launched on the market when a sufficient number of cabbies are gathered. “This app is jointly financed and developed by the 17 taxi groups and we are seeking more funding support from other stakeholders,” he said, adding that so far about 1,000 drivers had signed up for the platform. “The new app can surpass Uber. It has everything Uber offers, such as all the different means of electronic payment. But it also has functions you won’t find on the Uber app, such as the voice order function and support from taxi call centres,” Hung said. The move came a day after Edward Lau, owner of Tin Shing Motors, backed out at the last minute from his plan to team up with Uber to launch a taxi service called Uber Flash. Tin Shing has a fleet of 20 taxis. The deal would have allowed users to order taxis through Uber’s mobile app. Sources told the Post that Lau was forced to scrap the much-anticipated partnership after threats to his family and the possibility of a boycott by insurance companies. Lawmaker calls for crackdown on Uber Despite the setback, Uber went ahead with the launch of Uber Flash, with an undisclosed number of individual taxis. However, Hung called on taxi drivers and operators to refrain from partnering with Uber, saying he suspected that Uber Flash was still illegal. He pointed out that even though Uber Flash operates as a “hire-as-a-whole” service under a law that allows drivers and passengers to agree on the fare, the model required taxi operators and passengers to sign a contract before providing the service. “I suspect Uber Flash doesn’t provide such a contract for passengers, in which case it would be illegal. I call on taxi drivers and operators not to fall into this legal trap. The government should be more decisive in cracking down on Uber as it is now challenging law and order in the city,” he said. “Our new app is different. It’s fully legal, without any commission involved. There will be no overcharging or refusing fares,” he said, adding that incentives would be introduced to encourage drivers to take less popular routes. The app also has more functions than other existing ride-hailing apps, and would be the first to encompass the whole industry in the city. Why there is no need to legalise Uber But Hung acknowledged that the new app was the council’s second attempt to break into the online ride-hailing market. In 2016, it introduced the city’s first industry-run taxi app called Taxi but it closed down soon afterwards as the investor pulled out. “We think that this time the app will be sustainable as we have some 17 taxi groups joining together,” he said. An Uber spokeswoman declined to comment on the Hong Kong Taxi Council’s planned app but she said the taxi service under Uber Flash was fully compliant with the law.