Council reiterates calls for improvements in taxi industry

22/06/2010 10:40

The Consumer Council of Fiji believes that instead of calling for fare increase, the FijiTaxi Union (FTU) should work on bringing efficiency and better services in the taxiindustry. All FTU has ever done is call for fare increase but what actions has it taken toremove inefficient taxi operators and their dilapidated vehicles from the industry to givebetter services to consumers for the money they pay.

The Council would like remind FTU that Ministry of Transport granted the fare increasefor bus and taxi services last year in August with certain conditions which includedongoing training for taxi operators on customer service or behaving properly withcustomers and general maintenance of their vehicles. We would like to ask what has beendone so far to meet these conditions. Consumers have been paying high fares for almost a year now but has the taxi industry improved its services or vehicles.

A significant number of taxies currently operating are in dilapidated conditions with wrangling body parts, no air conditioning, broken windows or door handles and general signs or poor maintenance. Furthermore, the quality of service provided by taxi industryis really poor. We have received complaints on taxi drivers being rude to passengers, refusing patrons desiring short runs, not having adequate change and putting on loudmusic which is a disturbance to consumers. Many taxi drivers also allegedly do no tswitch on their taxi meters with the intention to siphon extra money from passengers.

So what justification does the FTU have to request for a further 50 cents increase in theflag fall rate this time? This clearly shows that the taxi operators are just concerned about how much profit they make instead of providing quality service to their clients.You can’t be expecting the consumers to pay high prices for unsafe vehicles and extremely poor services.

Council is also disturbed at FTU’s request in its submission for taxi operators at Nadi International Airport to be given a surcharge of $5. What is the justification for this surcharge and most of all why should we be discriminating against the tourists? Tourism industry is a source of income to thousands of people in Fiji including the taxi operatorsand hence we should be supporting and promoting the industry rather than trying tos queeze extra dollars from tourists.

The taxi industry is riddled with inefficiencies and shady practices and needs throughcleaning up. The majority of violators of road regulations in 2008 were taxi drivers withPSV licenses. One practice that the Council has always voiced against is the “middleman approach”. We are concerned that many licensed taxi operators are sub-contractingtheir taxis and bases to other people on a fixed income for the day. The existence of“middle-man approach” within Fiji’s taxi industry is not only causing inefficiency andlow revenue levels for drivers but also becoming a hindrance in them repairing thevehicles because they don’t have enough funds to do so.

The majority of income earned by drivers goes to the taxi owners while the rest is spenton fuel and their own survival. As a result many taxis now running on roads are in dilapidated conditions posing risks to consumers and other motorists. What is worse ismajority of these taxi plate owners are employed people. They are in this business forextra cash. The Council strongly believes that the Land Transport Authority shouldseriously look into this “middle-man approach”.

There is no doubt that the services provided by many taxi drivers fail to meet consumersatisfaction and the Ministry of Transport should thoroughly investigate the practices inthe industry before making any decisions on FTU submission. The Council would alsoconsider making a counter submission to the Ministry to provide consumers views.