Uber Denies Seoul Government Statement Its App Is Illegal

Aug. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Curb (Formerly Taxi Magic) CEO Pat Lashinsky discusses why the industry needs to evolve and change in the digital age. He speaks on “Bloomberg Surveillance.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Uber Technologies Inc., a smartphone based ride-booking app developer that operates in 42 countries, said its Seoul service obeys the law, responding to the city government’s statement that Uber’s operations are illegal.

Uber is “operating legally” in Seoul, Allen Penn, the San Francisco-based company’s head of Asia, said at a press conference in Seoul today. Uber has reviewed the rules and obtained a legal opinion confirming its legality, he said.

The response from Uber, valued at $17 billion based on its latest fund-raising, comes two weeks after the Seoul Metropolitan Government said it may ban Uber’s ride-booking service and applications like it because they are unsafe and unfairly compete with licensed taxi services. Governments and regulators in cities around the world have challenged Uber’s business on similar grounds, amid protests from taxi operators.

“What you fundamentally have here are regulations that are outdated -- regulations that have been in existence since long before any of us began carrying around smartphones in our pockets,” Penn said. “We invite the city of Seoul to a conversation about how to best structure regulations in a technology driven and wired world.”

Uber formally started its service in Seoul a year ago.

Last month, the Seoul Metropolitan Government said Uber doesn’t have the necessary licenses to be operating its service in the city.

City’s Service

Seoul’s government will begin its own smartphone-based cab-hailing service in December using existing taxi companies, it said in the July statement.

The Uber app runs on smartphones or tablets in 18 languages and can dispatch a driver to the user’s location at the push of a button. The service competes with local taxi-hailing apps such as NaviCall, run by a unit of the nation’s largest mobile phone carrier SK Telecom Co. (017670)

To contact the reporter on this story: Rose Kim in Seoul at rkim76@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Young-Sam Cho at ycho2@bloomberg.net Dave McCombs

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