21 September 2019
Protests by taxi drivers are making more people aware of new car-hailing services such as Uber. Photos: HKEJ, Reuters
Protests by taxi drivers are making more people aware of new car-hailing services such as Uber. Photos: HKEJ, Reuters

Taxi drivers’ protest only stokes more interest in Uber

Hong Kong taxi drivers staged another protest Monday against car-hailing services provided by Uber and other technology firms. But the move appears to have been counter-productive, with reports suggesting that the publicity has only helped stoke consumer interest in the new-age services.

Uber has seen a significant rise in downloads of its mobile app since the latest protest by taxi drivers, am730 reported. 

Over two days until Tuesday, it was the most downloaded in Hong Kong among free Apps offered by App Store, according to the report.

Some netizens posted messages online, saying they were more interested now in the car-hailing apps.

“Taxi drivers, thank you for your efforts. Now I know there is e-hailing car service called Uber,” read one message.

Taxi drivers have been claiming that car-rental services such as GoGoVan and Uber, which operate through mobile apps, have undercut their business.

Industry unions are urging authorities to clamp down on unlicensed operators.

However, the taxi drivers have failed to win sympathy from the public, who say the traditional taxi operators should improve their services rather than complain about competition.

Lawmaker Gary Fan Kwok-wai, a member of Legco’s Panel on Transport, said Uber’s growing popularity may stem from the fact that people are not happy with the service quality of the traditional taxis, even though taxi fares in Hong Kong are not high compared to other major cities.

In other comments, he said that taxi drivers’ anger may be not only due to loss of business to e-hailing car service providers but also due to falling prices of taxi licenses, a problem that the government needs to address.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said in a radio interview on Tuesday that any pick-up service provided by unlicensed drivers could face prosecution.

However, he admitted that e-hailing car services are a global trend.

Hung Wing-tat, an associate professor at the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said it is clear that there is lot of demand for “luxury taxis” provided by Uber and its competitors.

The government should set regulations to clear some grey areas in the services, he said.

– Contact us at [email protected]