So far, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has managed to stay above the global regulatory fray his company has created. But now that run is over.
On Wednesday, prosecutors in South Korea charged Kalanick and another Uber official with violating local licensing laws that prohibit rental car companies from operating taxi services. The charges carry a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a fine of roughly $18,000. The indictment is thought to be the first time that Kalanick has actually been charged with such a violation, the New York Times reports. And according to Bloomberg, people who “provide information on Uber’s services” starting next week could get rewarded with up to 1 million won, or $905.
That Kalanick has so far avoided being pulled into these regulatory battles is impressive, considering how many cities and countries Uber has barged into heedless of local rules. Then again, Seoul made clear several months ago that it would be taking a hard line on the ride service. Back in July, the city declared Uber illegal under South Korean law and said it would seek to ban the company. Local officials added that by December they would roll out their own app to provide most functions of Uber for official taxis (though that doesn’t seem to have happened yet).
In the meantime, Uber, in fine Uber fashion, plans to continue operating in South Korea despite the charges. (It took a similar approach in Germany, and was rewarded when a nationwide ban lasted all of two weeks.) The company said in a statement that it “respects the Korean legal system and will provide its full cooperation,” but added it “firmly believe[s]” its service is “not only legal in Korea” but also is being “welcomed and supported by customers.”