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November 18, 2009

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Home » Metro » Public Services

'Cloned' cabs can be real ripoff

Traffic inspectors have nabbed eight "cloned" cabbies who bought stolen taxis' roof-top lights - and the blue window stickers that give the fare - from underground markets or second-hand car dealers.

Disguised as legal ones, the illegal cabbies usually overcharge, use tampered meters and take long routes, said the Shanghai Traffic Law Enforcement Team.

Complaints about the illegal operations have been mounting among cabbies and customers alike after authorities in October enforced a higher taxi fee and asked taxi companies to install new roof-top lights.

Some taxi drivers began reporting this month that their newly changed top lights and fare stickers were stolen and later found on black taxis.

A passenger, surnamed Guo, this week took a car that he believed was a legal taxi with all the regular devices.

Guo, upon arriving at the destination, gave three city transport cards to the driver for payment since the driver kept saying the fare meter couldn't read the card.

Guo, confused and angry, paid the fee in cash at last.

But when he punched the cards next day, he found the money was gone in each card.

"I can not be more sorry for myself," said Guo who was cheated about 1,500 yuan (US$219) for the single ride.

There are over 40,000 legal taxis in the city. Since October, passengers have been paying about 10 percent more for minimum fare - the first hike in three years.

The eight illegal operators were caught in a recent citywide clamp-down, mainly around airport and railway stations, said Wu Runyuan, an official with the Traffic Law Enforcement Team.

The offenders told inspectors they found it easy to buy a set of regular taxi's devices, including the light and fare sticker, at 2,700 yuan on the city's underground markets.

Also easy to get is a fake car plate and operation license, usually priced at 800 yuan, said officials.

Some unlicensed cabbies even bought the devices from legal cabbies, who simply reported the loss to their companies and got new ones, said Wu.

The seized "cloned" cabbies can be detained up to 15 days and fined 50,000 yuan, according to local traffic and industry regulations.

Serious offenders can be jailed up to three years, officials said.


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