Third party taxi booking apps set to be regulated by LTA

A Comfort taxi under the ComfortDelGro Corporation Limited, which is one of the two largest operators in Singapore’s taxi industry. (Terry Xu)

A basic regulatory framework on third party taxi booking apps will be put in place by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) by the 2nd quarter of 2015.

It is said that the regulation is to protect the safety and interests of commuters who use these services.

The regulation is said to be done after consultation with commuters, the National Taxi Association, third-party taxi booking services and taxi companies extensively over the past year.

The third party taxi booking services available in Singapore are Uber, Easy Taxi, MoobiTaxi, Taximonger and GrabTaxi.

Earlier this month on 4 November, Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport Josephine Teo said in Parliament that LTA was studying basic regulations for third-party booking applications, while mobile applications such as Uber and GrabTaxi are currently allowed to operate in Singapore without regulation, some basic regulations may be required to protect the safety and interests of commuters.

This was in response to Member of Parliament, Pritam Singh’s questions on the potential of such applications in addressing peak-hour taxi demand, the difficulty of getting a taxi during inclement weather and how the LTA plans to address the rise of such applications.

In a report on 14 November, TransCab General Manager Jasmine Tan said that as soon as the company got wind of the GrabTaxi app, it notified all its drivers not to use it. She said the company was concerned that passengers might complain to the LTA about booking fees set by its taxi drivers. The operator could also be penalised by the LTA under the Quality of Service (QoS) framework if its drivers are not responsive to its dispatch system, she said. Ms Tan added that TransCab will work with GrabTaxi if the app is integrated with its dispatch system.

The third-party taxi booking services must comply with the below regulations under the new framework:

• Register their services with LTA
• Dispatch only licensed taxis and drivers holding valid Taxi Driver’s Vocational Licences, to ensure that commuters are served by legit taxis and drivers
• Specify upfront all information on fare rates, surcharges and fees payable for the journey, before commuters accept the dispatched taxi, to safeguard commuters and eliminate any “hidden charges”. Taxi booking fees cannot be higher than those charged by taxi companies.
• Allow passengers to decide whether to provide destination information before they make bookings, to avoid taxi drivers “picking and choosing” passengers
• Provide customer support services, including lost and found services and channels for commuters to make complaints and enquiries

The LTA said that while the regulations are expected to be implemented in 2015 after the necessary legislative processes are completed, taxi booking services and taxi companies are encouraged to begin preparations for these regulations.