Car hire service company Uber said it will close its operation in Macau on September 9 if talks with the Macanese government cannot resolve the issues of legalising the service and the massive fines handed down to drivers.

The company entered Macau in October 2015. It said in a letter to local lawmaker Au Kam-san that over 2,000 drivers were operating in Hong Kong’s sister SAR. But the company said the Macanese government has yet to draw up a timetable on legalising the app-based service, and the steep fines meant they were unable to operate in the territory.

“The police have handed down fines of more than MOP$10 million [HK$9.7 million] to 300 drivers, and this number is constantly rising at a rate of MOP$1 million each week,” the letter read. “What’s more serious is that the police can detain passengers in police stations without any legal basis, including tourists coming to Macau who can use the service freely in their own countries.”

Photo: Uber/Wikimedia Commons.

“At the same time, the police visited drivers’ residences several times and disturbed them,” Uber Macau claimed in the letter. “Such level of enforcement brought unbearable and unsustainable burden to passengers and drivers.”

Uber snub

Uber Macau said that it has requested to meet with Macau’s transport minister Raimundo Arrais do Rosário several times, but they were either rejected or ignored. It added that it notified Macau’s Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on on August 16 of the imminent closure of service, but it has yet to receive a reply from Chui.

The Macanese police said at a press conference on Monday that 379 cases of legal violations had been found related to Uber since last October. Of which, 346 filed for appeal. Each driver was required to hand in MOP$30,000 deposit, which may be turned into fines should the appeals fail.

The police also said that the number of overall taxi violations dropped 30.5 per cent since last year, from 3,037 to 2,112. Those included offences such as refusing to take passengers and overcharging.

A taxi in Macau. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Macau has long been criticised for its taxi service, with some claiming that drivers even assault passengers after failing to receive extra fares.

Macau’s security minister Wong Sio-chak denied claims that the government was suppressing Uber, and said that companies should not force the government to accept illegal operating models, adding that relevant services must obtain licences.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.