Uber hit yet again with legality concerns -- this time in Asia

Taiwan and China mega-city Chongqing are questioning whether Uber has the right to operate its service -- regardless of Uber's new agreement with Chinese search engine Baidu.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

As Uber's popularity has grown, so have its legal issues. Uber

Ride-hailing service Uber can't seem to catch a break, as more new complaints against the company have cropped up.

Authorities in Taiwan and in the China mega-city Chongqing have taken aim at Uber this week, arguing that the company is operating its service illegally. Taiwan's Transport Ministry said Monday that Uber is allowed to provide informational tools to customers, but cannot actually operate as a taxi service, according to Reuters. Meanwhile, Chongqing officials say that Uber does not have the appropriate license to operate in the city, which has a population of nearly 33 million.

Uber provides a ride-hailing service that allows people to log into an app and call for any Uber-approved car and driver. The service has been taken to task by taxi companies around the globe that consider Uber a competitor and have argued that the company is operating illegally. A number of countries, including Thailand and Spain, have agreed with some of those taxi groups.

Over the last several weeks alone, Uber has been banned or at least threatened to be banned in numerous areas around the world. Spain has said that pending further investigation, Uber must cease all operation across the country. Officials in Portland, Ore., have said the same for their city.

Earlier this month, Uber was banned from New Delhi, India, after investigators discovered that the company didn't have the proper taxi authorization to compete in the market. That came just days after an Uber driver was alleged to have abducted and sexually assaulted a woman he picked up. Another Uber driver in Boston was arrested last week after allegedly kidnapping and sexually assaulting a woman there. In response, more people are questioning Uber's background checks for its drivers.

Uber has done its best to keep its head above water, saying that the acts are despicable in the cases of alleged crimes and arguing that its service is perfectly legal when challenged by governments. The company has also been touting its growth, as it now operates in 250 cities around the world.

That size has pushed Uber's valuation to an estimated $40 billion. The company announced earlier this month that it raised $1.2 billion to help fund its growth. Last week, China-based search engine Baidu said it had invested an undisclosed sum in Uber and would bundle the ride-hailing service into its mapping and search applications.

It's against that backdrop that the Chongqing issue becomes all the more concerning for Uber. This is the first time Uber, which is up and running in eight Chinese cities, has faced any issue in that country. Uber is currently testing its service in Chongqing for free.

Baidu's investment was initially thought to provide some legal cover for Uber since Baidu has the favor of Chinese leaders. But the trouble that Uber is facing in Chongqing -- one of the five national central cities in the country directly controlled by the ruling party -- could mean that more issues will arise in China for Uber.

Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.