Uber Vietnam is likely to face a fine for running an ad campaign built around the phrase "Saigon that thu" (Saigon has fallen) to promote its ride-hailing service during days of heavy rain and flooding.
According to local media, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on October 3 sent a note to the culture departments in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, ordering an inspection into the ad campaign.
According to the note, phrases such as "the fall of Saigon" or "the collapse of Saigon" have been used by Western media to refer to the historic day of April 30, 1975, when the US.-backed Saigon regime was defeated.
The poor choice of words may make people think about war, the note said.
The full slogan "Saigon that thu nhung Uber khong that thu" (Saigon has fallen but Uber has not) appeared on Uber Vietnam’s Facebook page soon after a historic downpour flooded several areas in Ho Chi Minh City on September 26. Its prices reportedly surged 4.9 times due to high demand on that day.
The company paid VND241 million (US$10,667) in taxes to Vietnam for the first time last month, after being accused of tax evasion over the past two years.
Uber proposed legal frameworks for providing ride-hailing services in Vietnam in October last year, but the proposal was rejected as the company did not designate a legal entity that would handle contracts with Vietnamese partners.
Vietnam’s Ministry of Transport then asked Uber to revise its proposal. No further action has been taken since.
For now, only Grab Taxi, a Malaysia-based company, and Vietnam’s Vinasun have received permission from local authorities to operate e-hailing services.