Uber secures third-party insurance coverage in bid to be legalised in Hong Kong

Cannix Yau
Philippe Lopez | AFP | Getty Images

Ride-hailing firm Uber has moved a little closer to its destination of being legalised in Hong Kong after securing insurance coverage in line with the city's laws.

Announcing the deal on Thursday, Uber Hong Kong said it had signed a contract with AIG in October last year to provide third-party coverage worth up to HK$100 million for any ride-sharing trip in the city.

The coverage period began on October 17 last year and runs until September 30. "The liability insurance policy ... applies from the moment you book a trip [until] the last passenger exits the vehicle," the company said.

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"The limit of liability is HK$100 million per occurrence for bodily injury or death, which is equal to that required of all vehicles under Hong Kong law."

Prior to this, the firm had taken out global insurance policies for passengers but the terms and conditions were not known to the public.

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The firm was criticised for failing to provide adequate insurance required by law.

The news came amid a legal battle involving five Uber drivers charged with using a car for hire without a permit and driving without third-party insurance.

Their trial, a result of a police raid at the firm's offices in August 2015, will resume next Monday.

A source close to Uber described the deal as a "milestone" for ride-sharing services in the city, saying it aimed to address the public concern over the issue of third parties insurance coverage.

"Uber hopes to offer peace of mind to all riders," the source said, adding that the company had contacted many local insurers but to no avail.

However, a spokeswoman for Transport and Housing Bureau said that in addition to third-party insurance, private cars providing a service for profit must have a permit – the number of which is capped at 1,500 at present.

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Wesley Wan Wai-hei, a member of the Transport Advisory Committee, said the government should relax the current system to allow Uber or similar operators to join the market.

"This is good news. The government should consider creating a category to facilitate ride-hailing firms to lawfully operate in Hong Kong," he said.

Taxi firm owner Chan Man-keung, a spokesman for the Association of Taxi Industry Development, said the group opposed legalisation of Uber as it would totally disrupt the public transport mechanism.

"If Uber is legalised, then all private car owners can work as drivers for Uber. This will greatly affect the livelihoods of taxi drivers and cause chaos to the public transport network," he said.

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