Twenty-eight Uber drivers were found guilty of providing for-hire transport services without permits, and were fined between HK$3,800 and HK$4,500, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The drivers, aged 22 to 60, were among those arrested in a police crackdown on unlicensed ride-sharing services in the first half of last year. They were arrested after police received complaints from three citizens.
Magistrate Joseph To Ho-shing said the drivers were clearly providing car-hire services without permits because the drivers and the passengers did not know each other and the drivers told the passengers to pay.
To, however, also said that government policy should keep up with technological breakthroughs, referring to the Uber service.
Relevant government agencies should take remedial measures to solve the problems involving point-to-point transport service, he added.
Uber expressed disappointment at the ruling, saying the conviction “denies driver-partners access to flexible economic opportunities and serves as a setback to Hong Kong becoming a smart city”.
“Uber is a service that is used by millions of people,” the company said. “Over 100 governments and cities in Asia and around the world have responded to ride-sharing with regulations that allow this industry to flourish.”
The firm said there is a strong demand for ride-sharing services in Hong Kong, as shown in the results of surveys conducted by the Consumer Council and the Chinese University.
Of the convicted drivers, 25 were fined HK$3,800 each, while three others were fined between HK$4,000 and HK$4,500 because of their traffic conviction records. They have to pay the fines in two days.
In a statement on the ruling, the Transport Department said the government is “open-minded” on hiring cars through mobile platforms but stressed that new technologies should follow the law.
The department will suspend the licenses of the cars involved in the cases and order the registered owners to deliver the cars into custody until the suspension expires.
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