Uber, the app-based taxi company, just hit a major speed bump in its bid for global domination. Prosecutors in South Korea are charging Uber CEO Travis Kalanick with violating the country’s transportation laws.
Authorities in Seoul, South Korea, have indicted Kalanick and Uber’s local car-rental partner, MK Korea, for violating the country’s licensing laws that prohibit car rental companies from acting as taxi operators, the New York Times reported Wednesday. The penalty for such charges can amount to two years in prison and a fine of 20 million won, or about $18,000 USD.
The country may ban Uber altogether, according to Bloomberg News. Meanwhile, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will start offering a reward of 1 million won, or $905 USD, to people who provide information on Uber’s potential illegal activities.
Uber is fighting back against the indictment, arguing that the service is both legal in South Korea and a boon to consumers. “We firmly believe that our service, which connects drivers and riders via an application, is not only legal in Korea, but that it is being welcomed and supported by consumers,” Uber said in an email statement through South Korean public relations agencies.
This isn’t the first legal challenge Uber has faced as it attempts to grow throughout the United States and the world. The company, which was founded in San Francisco in 2009, currently operates in 250 cities around the globe and is roughly valued to be worth $40 billion. But it recently suspended its services in Portland, Oregon, while the city reconsiders its transportation laws that would allow Uber to operate legally.
And several cities and countries in Europe have banned Uber and its low-cost counterpart, UberPop, altogether. France, for example, has outlawed the ride-sharing service beginning Jan. 1, citing inadequate insurance of Uber drivers as the reason. Thousands of taxi drivers in London, Paris and other European cities protested the company earlier this year. Taiwan is also considering banning the service.
Uber is also under fire in India for failing to provide adequate background checks of its drivers, after an Uber driver was charged with rape in New Delhi earlier this month.
Uber received an infusion of cash of about $1.2 billion earlier this month to help fund its Asian expansion.