23 July 2019
Clement Chan (inset, left), head of the Consumer Council’s community relations panel, has urged taxi-hailing app operators to beef up the quality of their services. Photos: HKEJ, Internet
Clement Chan (inset, left), head of the Consumer Council’s community relations panel, has urged taxi-hailing app operators to beef up the quality of their services. Photos: HKEJ, Internet

Taxi apps show wide variance on success rate for users: study

The Consumer Council has found that taxi-hailing apps, which are designed to provide the public more convenience through mobile technology when they want a ride to their destinations, can be very “picky” about users, who also face the risk of leaking too much personal information.

To assess service quality of the apps, the consumer watchdog said it had formed a 74-member investigation team and asked the team members to take test rides in January and February.

Seven tax-hailing apps — HKTaxi, 85 ProTaxi, Didi Kuaidi, Fly Taxi, God Taxi, HT-Club, and SynCab — were chosen for the field tests.

Unveiling the results on Thursday, the Council said investigators used the apps to hail rides for a total of 429 times, during both peak and non-peak hours with each app being trialed at least 60 times.

The field trials showed that the overall success rate in securing a ride was 79 percent, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

HKTaxi, which claims to be the largest local player with as many as 45,000 drivers, performed the best in short, medium and long-haul services with success rates ranging between 96 to 100 percent.

The worst performer in short-haul services was HT-Club (17 percent), while in medium and long-haul services SynCab gave the least success rate (about 50 percent), the consumer watchdog found.

In its defense, SynCab said its services are not on a real-time basis but based on advance appointments several days earlier.

The tests, meanwhile, found that the success rates for hailing rides could vary depending on which cross-sea tunnels customers wanted to use.

If it was Cross-Harbour Tunnel, which was shorter than its counterparts, the rate stood only at 64 percent, compared to nearly 90 percent for either the Western Harbour Crossing or the Eastern Harbour Crossing. The rate was 73 percent if no specific tunnel was selected.

The amount a customer would tip was also a factor that affected the chance of hailing a taxi successfully.

For passengers who promised to give tips ranging from HK$30 to HK$50 while waiting for drivers’ confirmation, the success rate was 62 percent. For those who only agreed to tip between HK$10 and HK$20, their chance of securing a ride was 39 percent. In cases where no tip was promised, the rate dropped to 30 percent.

Moreover, some of the tested apps were found to offer discounts of only 5 or 10 percent on the fares, and in some cases no discount at all, rather than the 15 percent they guaranteed.

Discounts, for the record, are voluntary as the law provides that a taxi should charge customers according to the meter.

Clement Chan Kam-wing, chairman of the Consumer Council’s publicity and community relations committee, said taxi-hailing apps are supposed to make the public enjoy a sense of added convenience, but are falling short on that promise.

He urged operators to beef up their service quality and avoid leaving a bad impression on users.

Meanwhile, the watchdog warned taxi-hailing app users to be on guard to prevent online entities from collecting sensitive personal data unrelated to the rides.

The tests showed that most apps would put in requests to access or alter memory card content as well as gain access to users’ photos or their contacts.

In some cases, the apps even proactively downloaded files into users’ mobile phones without seeking permission.

The watchdog said it will notify the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, which can follow up on the matter.

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