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October 13, 2011

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Driving school fee bias banned

SHANGHAI traffic authorities banned price hikes on out-of-town students at local driving schools yesterday at a time they are facing limits on enrollment into the schools.

"City driving schools should not employ any kind of price discrimination," said a statement from the Shanghai Transport and Port Administration Bureau.

Local and non-local learners in the same driving school should be charged the same amount for the same services, said the bureau.

"The unauthorized price hike is strictly banned," said the bureau, which said it will team with the local pricing authority to crack down on violators.

Meanwhile, police said they would launch a crackdown on out-of-towners who faked temporary residence permits to get enrolled into the local schools.

Driving tests for those with illegal temporary residence permits will be canceled, police said, and driving schools involved will have their right to give the driving tests suspended.

To recruit more learners, some local driving schools, especially those in areas near Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, helped people obtain local temporary residence permits.

People often come to the city to learn, as fees in Shanghai are usually cheaper than elsewhere.

The notice to end the price discrimination came soon after reports that some driving schools charged more to non-local students who tried to secure a position before the enrollment restrictions kicked in.

The schools reportedly would tack on an additional 1,000 to 1,500 yuan to non-locals, learners found. The average fee is about 4,500 yuan.

Many schools have stopped taking out-of-towners after a supposed nationwide restriction by the Ministry of Public Security was widely accepted after the National Day holiday.

But a Beijing newspaper yesterday cited ministry officials as saying they did not issue any restrictions on non-locals. The ministry asked Shanghai traffic authorities for an explanation.

Shanghai vehicle management authorities said the ministry had issued a regulation in 2010 regarding a total volume limit based on the non-local resident population in a city.

Based on that supposed regulation, Shanghai officials set a quota where no more than 45 percent of those enrolled in Shanghai's 193 schools could be out-of-town residents.

Additionally, the total number of such learners applying for driving licenses would be limited to 23,000 each month.

About 50,000 people, including non-locals, apply for driving licenses in Shanghai each month.

The Shanghai rule attracted criticism around the country.

Many non-locals who have permanent jobs here said they had to wait to see if slots in driving schools would be available in the coming months.


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