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Uber's legal struggles hamstring expansion in Asia

As the US company aims to disrupt taxi markets across the globe, regulators in several countries in Asia are making it difficult for it to gain a foothold.


The Korean Communications Commission (KCC) has added to Uber's legal troubles in South Korea in recent days, but its troubles in many Asian nations suggest it has a long battle ahead if it wants to access the billions of potential customers in this booming region.

As reported yesterday, the KCC is taking action against the ride-hailing app as it did not receive official permission to provide location-tracking services.

This follows an earlier indictment of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick by the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office for violating a law that prohibits unlicensed entities from providing transportation services. Authorities are even offering rewards for the public to report on cars operating for Uber.

Beyond South Korea, Uber has faced similar legal and regulatory threats to its operations. Here's a list of Uber's troubles across the region right now:

India: Uber is due to face legal action for failing to background check one of its drivers, who is currently on trial for allegedly raping a passenger.

Thailand: In December, Thailand's Director of Transport and Logistics elaborated on the app's current ban, declaring that Uber Thailand is unlawful for not conforming with current taxi regulations.

Philippines: In October, Uber was hit by a sting operation in Manila staged by the country's transport regulatory board, despite being allowed to operate in the country. The affected driver was to pay a $4,400 fine as well as having his vehicle impounded.

Indonesia: Uber has been threatened with a ban in Jakarta.

Vietnam: Uber has been deemed illegal in Vietnam until proper regulation is fully implemented.

In spite of the legal turmoil, Uber is currently enjoying peaceful operations in some Asian countries, such as Singapore -- which has already implemented a regulatory framework for taxi-hailing apps. Malaysia is also more accommodating, with such services tolerated by lawmakers and accepted by riders.

While trouble continues in places like South Korea, local players are moving in on Uber's turf. South Korea's own IT giant Daum Kakao last week released a localised taxi-hailing app named Kakao Taxi, in direct competition with the US-born app. Uber will need to work fast to appease Asian regulators and beat these local competitors.