Vietnam minister signals U-turn on Uber ban

Thanh Nien News

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A HTC Corp. smartphone displays a city map of Berlin in the driver's seat of an automobile in this arranged photograph in Berlin, Germany, on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. Photo credit: Bloomberg A HTC Corp. smartphone displays a city map of Berlin in the driver's seat of an automobile in this arranged photograph in Berlin, Germany, on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. Photo credit: Bloomberg

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In a surprise twist, Transport Minister Dinh La Thang said Tuesday his ministry would consider legalizing   Uber Technologies Inc., the online car- booking company that competes with traditional cab services, one day after his deputy declared the the taxi service illegal.
Thang told Thanh Nien News Tuesday that he has instructed his agency to consider adjusting regulations to manage Uber’s taxi operations.
"Laws and regulations should be amended for the sake of the public interest," Thang said. "The 2013 Constitution also stipulates that people and companies are allowed to do what is not against the law."
Thang made the announcement just one day after his deputy Nguyen Hong Truong said at a press briefing Monday that the mobile application-based service has no legitimacy to operate as a cab provider in Vietnam.
The San Francisco-based company has faced fierce opposition in Southeast Asia. According to a Bloomberg report, Thailand said it will fine drivers using private cars to provide commercial services and warned users against the app, which could dent Uber’s global expansion plans that underpin a valuation of the company of as much as $40 billion, making it worth more than Twitter Inc. or Hertz Global Holdings Inc.
A team of inspectors from the Ho Chi Minh City's transport department and traffic police officers launched an inspection into Uber last week, following complaints from the city's Taxi Association.
Uber looks “forward to meeting with local authorities to discuss how we can work together to help transform and modernize the country’s transportation,” Bloomberg quoted Karun Arya, Uber’s South Asia communications head, as saying Tuesday. 
Uber, which began services in Vietnam on July 31 and  has started operations in more than 200 cities since its founding in 2009, faces legal battles in countries including Germany amid complaints about unfair competition and lack of customer safety, according to Bloomberg.
The city of Oslo reported the company to the police for lacking permits to operate there, and Toronto has also asked a court to shut down Uber, the newswire said.

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