Uber-saga: survey shows mass dissatisfaction with taxi drivers

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Under a quarter of passengers reported satisfaction with attitude of taxi drivers, survey finds, citing “ossified regulations on private hire car permits” as the cause of the negative results.

Photo: On the right, Raymond Ho Man-kit (何民傑), Sai Kung district councillor and convenor of activist group Momentum 107, with members of the Lion Rock Institute – in the centre, Director of Operations Laurence Pak (白仲祺) and on the left, Co-Founder and Interim Executive Andrew Shuen Pak-man (孫柏文).

“A lose-lose scenario”

The Lion Rock Institute, a think tank promoting “individual and free market values” in Hong Kong, released results of a survey which polled 554 taxi passengers, revealing that up to 84% have experienced failing to hail a taxi within 15 minutes. 70% of regular passengers have experienced taxi drivers not knowing how to reach the destination and 69% of them have been refused hire by taxi drivers, despite it being a legal offense to do so. Over a half of regular passengers have experienced dangerous driving and poor attitude from taxi drivers.

In its press release, The Lion Rock Institute said the negative responses in the survey were symptomatic of “ossified regulations on private hire car permits [which are] exploiting the opportunities of passengers and professional drivers, disrupting social harmony.”

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Calls to relax regulation

The think tank’s co-founder and interim executive director Andrew Shuen Pak-man (孫柏文) said, “It is a lose-lose scenario when passengers can’t find taxis and taxi drivers can’t find a suitable passenger. Technology solves this problem by allowing drivers and passengers to find a match online, reducing the time taxi drivers spend looking for passengers on the road, thus cutting traffic congestion in the long term. The Hong Kong government should immediately relax regulations on private hire car permits, solve the consumer demand on hired-cars, and vitalize the transportation industry. In the long term, the Hong Kong government should learn from the progress that digital technology industry has brought to the world and relax various obsolete policy limitations, instead of quickly killing an opportunity before fully understanding it.”

“The arrest of interns, as if they were the masterminds of Uber, is disgraceful.”

On Sunday morning, the Institute held a protest outside the Central Government Offices at Tamar and issued a petition to the government, demonstrating support for the embattled Uber drivers who have suffered a police crackdown last week, which resulted in the arrests of 10 drivers and staff members. The protest was the lead item in many TV and print media outlets over the 24 hour news cycle.

Raymond Ho Man-kit (何民傑), Sai Kung district councillor and convenor of activist group Momentum 107, appeared at the protest, saying, “When the government says it is promoting IT, why is it banning Uber? Ridiculous!”

Shuen also denounced the recent police action on Uber, saying, “The arrest of interns, as if they were the masterminds of Uber, is disgraceful.”

Moderated responses

Consumer Council chairman Prof. Yuk-shan Wong (黃玉山) said on TVB’s On The Record show last Friday that from a consumer’s perspective, it is good to have more options. But he also warned that there are grey legal areas in online car hiring services, reminding consumers that beware of insurance issues.

“Uber can choose to operate legally under Hong Kong’s legal framework.”

On Digital Broadcasting Channel’s Morning Octopus radio show on Friday, Simon Chui Chun-king (徐振景), the Council’s Deputy Chief Executive, also revealed that nine complaints about Uber’s discount deals have been reported. He said he understands that new services are attractive to consumers, but he urged them to consider whether transactions are legal when choosing mode of transportation. He warned passengers that their insurance might be ineffective if their drivers are not licensed. While supporting law enforcement, he also said the government should do more research on the issue.

Rimsky Yuen (袁國強), Secretary for Justice, said today that the Justice Department was consulted before the police arrests last week and the Department is waiting for police evidence before deciding whether to prosecute Uber. He stressed that favouritism does not exist in the government and did not target its law enforcement efforts towards specific companies or individuals. Yuen added that there are legal and illegal methods for working with IT, and Uber can choose to operate legally under Hong Kong’s legal framework.

Editor in Chief Andrew Work and Vincent Wong of HKSOW discuss why the Transport Department may be struggling with the Uber issue here.

(Disclaimer: Editor in Chief Andrew Work is a co-founder of the Lion Rock Institute.)