Taxi apps required to register with authority, startups say they welcome new regulations
National Taxi Association (NTA), taxi-booking services and taxi companies consulted
IN a move to “safeguard commuter safety and interests,” the Land Transport Authority (LTA) of Singapore has introduced a basic regulatory framework which is expected to come into effect by the second quarter of 2015.
In an announcement made on Nov 21, the LTA said that it had consulted commuters, the National Taxi Association (NTA), third-party taxi booking services and taxi companies “extensively over the past year” in drafting this framework.
Under the framework, all third-party taxi booking services are required to register with the LTA to operate in Singapore, with successful applicants granted a certificate of registration valid for three years.
In response to queries by Digital News Asia (DNA), an LTA spokesperson said that no taxi booking apps are currently registered with the agency, pending the framework’s enforcement next year.
In addition, only licensed taxis and drivers holding valid Taxi Driver’s Vocational Licences (TDVLs) can be dispatched by these apps.
In its statement, the LTA said that this is to ensure that taxis and drivers operating legally can serve commuters, and are regulated by LTA’s Taxi Quality of Service (QoS) and TDVL frameworks.
In information made available by LTA on its website, 410 TDVLs were issued in August, bringing the total number of valid licences to 99,392.
Also required under the new regulations is for all information on the fare rates, surcharges and fees payable for the journey to be specified to commuters upfront, before commuters accept the dispatched taxi.
These include the flag-down fare, distance and time rates, the booking fee charged by the service provider, and where applicable, peak period and location surcharges.
To ensure that taxi services remain equally accessible to all members of the public, bidding and pre-trip tipping for taxi services will not be allowed.
The booking fees charged by third-party taxi booking services also cannot exceed the booking fees charged by taxi companies.
Alternatively, third-party taxi booking services can provide commuters with the option to set their user preferences to automatically reject certain types of taxis or taxis with certain fare rates and surcharges.
Asked about penalties, the LTA spokesperson said that similar to the Taxi Service Operator Licence (TSOL), fines would be issued for breaches or non-compliance, capped at S$100,000 (US$79,981) per infringement.
“Under the proposed framework, in which the details are being worked out, in cases in which the breach is severe, the registration may be revoked,” the spokesperson added.
Registration details will be provided closer to the date when the regulation comes into effect effected. However, the LTA is encouraging taxi booking services and taxi companies to begin their preparations to comply with these regulations.
The spokesperson did not comment on whether similar moves would be made to regulate ride-sharing services, such as those provided by Uber, in the future.
The LTA also announced a new crowd-sourcing application slated for release in mid-December called [email protected].
“Through an integrated platform map, commuters can easily locate the number of available taxis near them, and broadcast their positions so taxi drivers can identify the exact locations of potential customers.
“Similarly, taxi drivers can make use of this app to cut down the time spent on the roads looking for customers,” the LTA said in a statement.
In response to further queries from DNA, an LTA spokesperson said that [email protected] “is not a booking application.” It is only intended to show commuters the location of any available taxi, as well as the number of taxis within the vicinity of a commuter.
As of August, Singapore with its population of approximately five million currently has 27,970 licensed cabs in operation, with the largest fleet being Comfort Cabs with 12,557 cars, followed by Trans-Cab with 4,650 cars (see table below).
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