Taxi drivers have criticised unlicensed Uber drivers and mobile taxi-hailing apps for skirting the law and creating “unfair competition,” urging the Hong Kong government to better regulate the for-hire car industry.

Industry representatives explained the challenges facing the taxi industry in a LegCo public hearing on Tuesday. A group of taxi drivers demanded tighter enforcement against unlicensed drivers. They called the unlicensed vehicles “tools for committing crime” and urged the court to “protect the rights of legitimate taxi drivers.”

Another submission highlighted three difficulties currently facing the taxi industry:

  • Uber and other vehicles carrying passengers for hire without a hire car permit.
  • Light goods vehicle illegally carrying passengers for hire.
  • The lack of regulations over mobile taxi-hailing apps.
Taxi driver protest
Taxi driver protest against illegal services.

On Monday, over 100 taxi drivers organised a “slow drive” along Hong Kong Island’s eastern corridor to protest against the allegedly illegal forms of competition. According to Apple Daily, the organiser said that fierce competition from unlicensed for-hire cars results in an average daily loss of HK$200-300 for taxi drivers.

Protesters vowed to step up their campaign if the government does not promise to regulate the for-hire car industry. The group said that they might go on strike or obstruct city streets.

A hire car permit is required for private vehicles to carry passengers for hire. The absence of the permit implies that the vehicle does not have third party insurance in the event of an accident. It is illegal for light goods vehicle to carry passengers for hire.

Toyota Hi-ace
Light goods vehicle – Toyota Hi-ace. Photo: Wikimedia.

An investigative report by Now TV questioned the legality of mobile taxi-hailing apps. Some of the app developers have contravened road traffic regulations by offering discounts to customers. Regulation 40 of the law forbids any manner of soliciting by taxi drivers or persons acting on behalf of the driver. The report found that mainland taxi-hailing app “快的 (Fast Taxi)” receives an average of 25,000 taxi orders per day in Hong Kong.

Another report by i-Cable drew attention to cabbies’ use of smartphones while driving to look for customers on mobile apps.

Image: Kevin Poh via Flickr

Arthur Lo is an undergraduate student currently on a gap year. During Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement protests, he worked as a fixer, translator and producer for foreign media outlets such as Al-Jazeera.