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August 22, 2013

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Cab booking app disputes prompt call for regulation

While mobile taxi booking applications have made life relatively easier for locals in getting cabs during the rush hour and bad weather, it has also led to a rise of disputes that has prompted calls for regulating the market.

On Tuesday, a woman in Pudong New Area, who used a taxi booking app, filed a complaint with “Kuaidi Taxi” booking operators after she was repeatedly abused by the taxi driver.

The woman, who didn’t want to be identified, said she used their app service to book a cab on Tuesday morning. She got a reply which showed that the taxi was still 5.8 kilometers away. Thinking it was too far away, she canceled the booking immediately.

The enraged driver abused the woman over the phone repeatedly, forcing the woman to shut off her mobile. She later filed a complaint with the Hangzhou-based operator and demanded to know more information about the driver.

The company first claimed it did not have any information on the driver, and then said it was not allowed to give the driver’s detailed operative information. It then apologized,  saying it had ended its cooperation with the driver and blocked the driver’s access to their application.

The woman then received an apology from the driver on SMS. “His apology and the language he used was so different from the attitude he had in the morning when he kept calling me and repeatedly abused me,” the woman said.

Popular softwares like Kuaidi Taxi and Didi Taxi allow users to enter their locations and destinations and the extra fare they are willing to pay.

The information is relayed to the taxi drivers on their mobile phones. If the driver accepts the call, the customer’s phone number and the license plate number of the taxi is passed on to the driver and the passenger.

But the apps are being blamed for a drop in revenue of the big taxi companies, besides leading to disputes as well.

The Shanghai Transport and Port Administration said last month they would release a taxi booking service management regulation soon, though the exact date was not given.

In the new regulation, the third-party booking operators would likely be required to provide booking data to companies and dispatch centers who own the taxis that picked up business through their apps.

Currently, passengers are directly connected to the cabbies who have downloaded the apps and receive business by bypassing the call centers. It has left the app users unprotected. The city has about 50,000 taxis, of which around 67 percent are in the booking-dispatch system.

The apps are popular among smartphone users and pose a challenge to traditional taxi booking service, where passengers have to pay an extra four yuan to use the call center’s services for taxis belonging to companies like Qiangsheng and Dazhong. The call center booking service are often slower compared to the third-party booking apps as they simultaneously contact all drivers using the apps, regardless of which company they drive for.

“We got in touch with some third-party booking operators recently,” Gao Yang, director of Qiangsheng Taxi dispatch center told Shanghai Daily yesterday. “There is no cooperation yet. The whole issue depends on the attitude they have about the issue.”



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