Taxi drivers can smile again now that the playing field is level

Consumers are reassessing their options amid claims of rising charges for app-based services


It is not all gloom and doom for the country’s taxis. The traditional cabbies, who had been heavily criticised over service standards and obscene charges, could make a return.

Consumers, who had abandoned cabbies for ride-hailing operators, are reassessing their options amid claims of rising charges for appbased services.

A representative of a taxi driver association said taxi drivers are on a standby mode to “revive” the once believed dying sector.

Users who spoke to The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) said there are increases in fares — especially during peak hours and at selected locations.

“A lot of us are waiting for the right time to return to be taxi drivers, given the government has placed measures to look into the matter and regulate the industry. We are on standby mode,” Malaysian Taxi Drivers’ Transformation Association (PERS1M) deputy president Kamarudin Mohd Hussain told TMR.

He said the issue of rising fares and probes on ride-sharing services will eventually prove that metered taxis are actually cheaper.

The government had announced that all e-hailing drivers would fall under the same licencing rules like cabbies.

Transport Minister Anthony Loke said the move would create a level playing field for both taxi and e-hailing drivers, effective July 12.

The move means, effective last week, e-hailing drivers need to send their vehicle for inspections, undergo health checks and renew their driver’s card annually.

However, e-hailing drivers are given one year to comply with the ruling.

The rules were demanded by cabbies who claimed that ride-hailing drivers are exempted from such regulations and that they operate at a lower cost. The government, however, maintained a RM5,000 incentive for cabbies who want to move to e-hailing platforms.

A Grab driver said the additional costs to fulfil the regulations would not be a financial burden to him.

“It has been demanded by taxis. So, we are not similar to them,” said the Grab driver.

In Singapore, Grab is already facing legal challenges related to the merger with Uber Technologies Inc’s South-East Asian operations.

The Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore had asked Grab to abolish some driver restrictions, restore pre-merger pricing formulas and pay unspecified financial penalties, citing complaints from riders and drivers, according to a Bloomberg report.

The agency said the Singaporebased company would have to sell Lion City Rentals Pte Ltd to any potential competitor with a reasonable offer, and not be allowed to sell the car-rental service for drivers to Grab without its approval.

Grab will submit a written petition on July 26, appealing against the consumer watchdog’s decision on its acquisition of Uber’s business.

Similarly, the Transport Ministry is expected to have its own probe on Grab’s potential monopoly of the e-hailing business and complaints over its fare structure.

“The government is studying the e-hailing service monopoly risk after the merger between Grab and Uber through the Malaysia Competition Commission. We don’t want to see a monopoly in any sector,” Loke was reported as saying.

Grab Malaysia responded by saying it would work with the government and authorities following his announcement over the probe.

Ride-hailing users have voiced concerns of Grab’s monopoly and the impact on the charges.

A frequent ride-hailing user, Muhammad Hafiz Mohd Raflis, said for instance, a 4.5km journey from his home in Kelana Jaya to a Toyota Service Centre in Section 19, Petaling Jaya, these days could cost him as high as RM20 during peak hours compared to between RM16 and RM18 before.

A ride-hailing industry source said the hike in fares could be the result of peak hours, traffic congestion and when it rains.

However, he said options in the sector and healthy competition would drive service providers to offer better pricing and travel service availability.

Malaysia has more than 30 ridehailing operators, but less than a handful are doing well.