LTFRB lifts ban, orders Uber to pay P190-M fine
Uber welcomed the decision of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) cutting short its suspension in exchange for a P190-million fine, but the ride-sharing giant kept silent on Saturday as to when it intended to settle the penalty.
The LTFRB ordered Uber to pay the huge fine instead after lifting its one-month suspension, imposed on Aug. 14, that sparked public outrage and forced 36,367 vehicles off the streets.
“We’re working hard to meet the conditions for the lifting of the suspension and hope to resume operations as soon as possible,” said Cat Avelino, Uber’s head of communications, in a statement.
On its Twitter account, Uber said it hoped to resume service “this coming week.”
The transport agency said late on Friday that it would grant Uber’s petition to resume operations in exchange for the P190-million fine — much stiffer than Uber’s P10-million offer.
It also required the company to pay about P20 million a day in financial assistance to its drivers for lost earnings.
Sen. Grace Poe welcomed the lifting of Uber’s suspension but nevertheless expressed disappointment at the timing of the decision.
Poe, who chairs the Senate committee on public services, pointed out that Uber would be unable to comply with the LTFRB order at once because the banks are closed on weekends.
The LTFRB handed down its ruling right before the start of a three-day weekend, thus depriving Uber the chance to immediately resume service.
“I am quite disappointed that the LTFRB decision was issued late Friday afternoon, effectively taking out any opportunity for Uber to pay the penalties,” Poe said in a statement.
“It is frustrating to think that we have a long weekend ahead of us and people will have to suffer the inconvenience of having limited transportation choices in going around Metro [Manila] with their families,” she added.
Because the country is commemorating National Heroes Day tomorrow, the earliest that Uber can only comply with the board’s order is on Tuesday.
In its eight-page order, the LTFRB said that Uber’s fine was “commensurate to the penalty of suspension.” It added that based on the data submitted by Uber, the company earned between P7 million and P10 million daily from about 150,000 trips.
“[The P190-million fine] is arrived at by taking into consideration the number of days that respondent should be suspended in relation to the daily average income,” the order read.
Uber was suspended for defying an LTFRB moratorium on the acceptance of new drivers as the agency studied how to regulate the growing ride-sharing industry. Uber’s rival Grab followed the directive.
After filing a motion for reconsideration on Aug. 15, Uber resumed operations, only to stop on the same day when the LTFRB board denied its petition.
“The online ride-sharing services of the respondent (Uber) will be restored when it has paid the amount of fine and the said financial assistance [to Uber drivers] remitted,” the board resolution said.
LTFRB board member Aileen Lizada said that Uber should continue to provide assistance to its drivers until it had settled the fine. She added that for Uber to resume operations, it should provide proof of compliance from its bank, indicating that the drivers had indeed received the amount due them.
The board explained that Uber’s P190-million fine is only about a third of what it would have spent if it fully served its suspension. Uber would have also shelled out about P597 million in financial aid to its drivers for a month.
But Poe said the LTFRB could have offered relief to a lot more people had it given Uber the chance to comply with the ruling at once.
“If the LTFRB had allowed Uber to operate right away, then this could have served as a great relief to our people, most of whom rely on TNVS (transport network vehicle service) due to the comfort, reliability and safety they provide,” she said.
The P190-million penalty, she also said, “should be enough to make Uber rethink its actions and reevaluate its strategy in testing the extent of government regulations.”
Commuters had voiced out their disappointment in the suspension of Uber, saying services like these offered a convenient alternative, especially with problems with irascible and choosy taxi drivers who overcharged fares.
Uber said this month it was accepting new applications for vehicles but was not processing them pending its discussions with the LTFRB.
It also urged the government to simplify the accreditation process, with a representative telling Poe’s committee: “We cannot impose 1900s regulations on today’s technological innovations.” —With a report from AFP
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