Taxi-calling apps are becoming increasingly popular in Hong Kong — not just among passengers but taxi drivers, too.
Cabbies are eager to offer discounts of up to 20 percent to passengers to secure a minimum of three orders from the app service providers, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported Monday.
The law prohibits discounting of taxi fares, but it applies only to taxi companies or their agents and not to app providers.
This legal gray area has allowed several taxi apps to flourish in Hong Kong.
These include local apps like HKTaxi, GoGoTaxi and Fly Taxi as well as apps from abroad like Easy Taxi from Brazil, Uber from the United States and Kuaidi Dache (“Fast Taxi” in Putonghua), a mainland app backed by Alibaba Group.
Some taxi drivers pay a monthly fee of between HK$20 (US$2.58) and HK$40 a month to the service providers.
Ken, a taxi driver, said he and his fellow cabbies use at least three apps and offer a 15 percent discount most of the time.
He finds the service especially useful after he has completed a long-distance trip to the New Territories and has to look for a passenger wishing to travel downtown.
Police have so far not charged or warned any taxi drivers using such apps.
Certain taxi driver groups and lawyers are urging the government to amend the law to make the taxi-calling app services also illegal.
But Yau Shing-mu, the acting secretary for transport and housing, has said it is difficult to consider app developers as agents of taxi drivers.
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