The decision of Singapore's largest taxi operator, ComfortDelGro, to adjust its levy structures against bookings recently has alarmed its cab drivers, as drivers begin to worry about the impact of the adjustments on their own earnings.
From next Tuesday onwards (25 Sep), cab drivers under ComfortDelGro are obliged to pay a levy of 3.9 per cent for every booking that has a fare over $12. However, no levy will be imposed against the drivers for bookings that costs less than $12.
Presently, ComfortDelGro takes 30¢ from every off-peak booking and 40¢ from every peak-hour booking. For advance bookings, the operator takes $1 from every booking. It is noted that the levies are applied against bookings made through ComfortDelGro's mobile application and phone booking systems.
ComfortDelGro spokesperson Ms Tammy Tan told The Straits Times that the operator aims to encourage taxi drivers to accept more passengers through the aforementioned booking systems, as doing so will reduce waiting times for passengers, on top of giving drivers the opportunity to earn more than they did previously.
"We hope this will serve as an incentive for them to take on even more booking jobs. Longer-distance fares will see slightly higher levies, but fares collected by our drivers will also be higher," Ms Tan added.
Executive advisor of the National Taxi Association (NTA) Mr Ang Hin Kee said expressed his disappointment regarding the levy adjustments.
"Most [drivers] said [that] the trips they take from call bookings that are less than $12 are few and far between," said Mr Ang, who is also a Member of Parliament for the Ang Mo Kio GRC.
He added that drivers are already being burdened with expensive taxi rental rates and increasing petrol fuel costs, and are worried that taxi operators are trying to make a profit at their expense through means such as the ComfortDelGro levy adjustments.
He added that the weekly incentives might not be sufficient to make up for the profit losses, and that the incentives are not necessarily permanent.
Mr Ang added that the taxi association will raise this issue with ComfortDelGro, as well as authorities such as the Land Transport Authority and the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore.
Mr Chua Hwee Keng, 56, said to The Straits Times that it is unlikely that the new adjustments made by ComfortDelGro to the levy structure will impact his earnings greatly, as "it will depend on the kind of jobs I get." He noted that approximately half of the bookings jobs he accepts typically cost below $12 in passenger fares.
However, Mr Haniff Mahbob, 66, whose bookings jobs normally cost more than $12 in passenger fares, said: "The levies could be a lot higher than the 30 cents currently charged."
Mr Ee Teck Hian, 51, however, said to TODAY Online: "It's still better to have bookings rather than none at all."
In a press release in June, however, ComfortDelGro highlighted a rise in the number of bookings made through its systems, notably after Uber's exit from Southeast Asia.
ComfortDelGro also attributed the increase in taxi bookings to "the Company’s concerted efforts, including the rolling out of marketing promotions for passengers in recent months" such as promotional codes and discounts for passengers.
Mr Alex Ng said: “I've always taken booking jobs only from the Company because I like to focus on one platform.
Recently, I've noticed that the booking jobs have increased by around 20%, and I'm positive that I will be able to do even more in time to come."