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  • Seoul puts a stop to overcharging practices of international taxies

  • SMG 1808
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    – 52 international taxi drivers who were found to have overcharged their passengers by unfairly applying ‘out-of-city’ extra-fares face with penalties and fines.

    – Transportation data of 201 brand taxies were first investigated. Punishment for overcharging will be stepped up.

    – By using Seoul Taxi Information System, the city government has identified the exact location when the ‘out-of-city’ fare was applied and revealed the cases of overcharging.

    – In case of the wrongdoing, the driver’s International taxi operation license is cancelled and the driver is subject to 40 hours of mandatory education. Failure to complete the education program will lead to the permanent cancellation of the driver’s license to operate taxi.

    – In the first half of this year, the SMG plans to advance the Seoul Taxi Information System and conduct real-time monitoring on wrongdoings including any tweak of the taximeter.

    – The SMG plans to ‘monitor and supervise taxi operation through the Seoul Information System and stave off any possibility of overcharge in advance.’


     

    The Seoul metropolitan government has identified “International taxis” that had ripped off foreign passengers through a taximeter scam and disqualified them from operating as official multilingual taxi drivers in the capital. At the same time, the city government plans to advance Seoul Taxi Information System within the first half of this year, which will automatically filter out taxi drivers who attempt to tweak their taximeters.

    By utilizing Seoul Taxi Information System, the SMG will look into the track record of every International Taxies in Seoul including those 52 taxies whose drivers caught in overcharging. In addition, in order to prevent recurrence of overcharging, the penalty for the violation will be stepped up, the Seoul city government said on Jan, 13th, Monday.

    In May, 2009, as parts of efforts to promote tourism, the SMG introduced 120 International taxies to provide better service for foreign tourists in the capital city. As of 2013, there were 371 International Taxies in Seoul.

    Among them, there are 201 brand taxies and 170 regular taxies. Brand taxies are owned by corporations while regular taxies are owned by drivers themselves. In order to get license to drive International taxies, drivers should pass the qualification test which consists of 70 scores of foreign language competency test and 30 scores of personality interview test. In addition, they have to take 16 hours of service education.

    The current number of international taxi drivers for each foreign language is as follows; 149 for English, 106 for Japanese, 63 for English and Japanese, 8 for English and Chinese, 5 for Japanese and Chinese, and 15 for English, Japanese and Chinese.

    The taxi fare rate system of international taxies is different from that of standard taxies. International taxis have a 3,600 won basic fare, 20% higher than that of standard taxies and charge 120 won per 142 meters. The cabs charge the same rates as other taxis when they don’t provide foreign-language services.

    Between Seoul and Incheon International Airport, there are three divided sections, and different flat fare is applied to each section. Foreign tourists also can book international taxies for shopping and tourism, where a flat fee for a block of time is applied.

    According to the SMG’s analysis on the international taxies, the usage rate of the taxies increased by 2.8 times since its introduction, from 36,000 in 2009 to 102,000 in 2012.  Among them, 87% cases were for traveling between the international airport and the downtown, while 9% for business travel and 4% for tourism. As for the most frequently travelled areas, Jung-gu, Yongsan-gu and Gangnam-gu topped the chart.

    Along with taxi fare adjustment in October, 2013, extra-meter fare system was reintroduced on Seoul taxies. As a result, there are two buttons on taximeters for additional charges; one for foreign language service and the other for out-of-city charge. The latter one is supposed to be pushed the moment the taxi moves out of the city boundary. The 52 international taxi drivers were found to have used the second button along with the first one for foreign language service, even though they were driving in the downtown.

    In the meantime, the SMG is conducting additional investigation to find out if seven international taxi drivers pushed the out-of-city extra charge button around Gimpo International Airport and Incheon International airports areas. Even if two airports are located out of the city, flat fare rate should be applied for airport areas.

    The overcharging practice of some of the international taxies was investigated through the Seoul Taxi Information System (STIS), which was introduced last year. The SMG first sifted through taxi drivers who simultaneously applied both of additional extra-charge fare, before identifying the exact location where the driver pushed the out-of-city button by looking into GPS data.

    Given the traffic at the time of the travel, normally about 10,040 won should have been charged, whereas the actual charged fare was 12,840, about 2,800 won higher. For about 50 days, the total amount of unfair overcharge amounted to around 140,000 won.

    The city government will take action on 52 international taxi drivers whose wrong doings have been revealed. Their license to operate as International Taxi drivers are stripped under the access terms of Seoul International Tax rules.

    In addition, they have to attend 40 hours of a law-abiding education program along with individual fines of 200,000 won under the Article 26 clause 1 of the Passenger Transport Service Act. The mandatory law-abiding education program is run by the Transportation Training Institute, and the drivers who breached the law will have to take classes on the service and transport service related-laws. In case of taking the classes less than the mandatory 40 hours, their employment in the taxi service is prohibited.

    According to clause 6 of the article 21 of the Truck Transportation Business Act, any call-bans which are found to have overcharged their passengers should give back the unfairly charged rates. However, there is no corresponding law for taxies, and the city government plans to bring the central government’s attention on the need of revising the Passenger Transport Service Act.

    In addition, penalty points will be imposed on the corporations of the rule-breaking taxies so the companies will take moral responsibility for their supervision failures. By February, inspections on their transportation profits management and their state of business practice improvement will be completed.

    For each 100,000 won fines, five penalty points will be imposed. If accumulated penalty points exceed 2,400 points of a company who owns brand taxies in two years, its business license is cancelled or the number of their taxies’ operation are reduced.

    Lastly, Seoul metropolitan government plans to advance the ‘Seoul Taxi Information System’ within the first half of this year and conduct real-time monitoring and supervision on all taxies including international taxies. Once the system advancement is completed, any unfair tweaking of the taximeters to apply ‘out-of-city’ charge in the downtown or to unfairly overcharge the passengers compared to the actual travel distance will automatically reported to the authority, which will allow the real-time monitoring on all the wrong practice of taxies including unfair overcharge.