Rip-off taxis are a disgrace

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Rip-off taxis are a disgrace

Eight-passenger vans disguised as black licensed jumbo taxis illegally roam Seoul to prey on foreign tourists, charging them outrageous fares. According to an investigative report by the JoongAng Ilbo, a Japanese tourist was trapped inside a van fighting with the driver when he refused to pay a fare of 330,000 won ($290).

After that incident, an increasing number of Japanese tourists are writing warnings on blogs and Internet bulletin boards about the illegal taxi predators after having had unpleasant experiences during their visits to Seoul.

These illegal rip-off operations are tainting the country’s image as well as scaring off tourists, who have recently been on the rise, mostly thanks to the popularity of K-pop and TV dramas. For tourists, a basic comfort is knowing that they can get around a city without being ripped off by local taxis. Seoul usually is that kind of city.

Seoul city officials and police should join hands to reinforce our legal system of public transport and thoroughly crack down on any illegal cab services. First, they should make the reporting of rip-offs by illegal cabs simple and easy. Foreigners should have easy access to exclusive lines to report unfair cab fare charges and demand rescue services whenever they experience such unpleasant and illegal practices.

Above all, the authorities in charge of transportation must enforce the original function of the call-taxi system. Call vans or jumbo vans have been licensed to carry as many as eight passengers with lots of luggage. They are dispatched based on a call service that connects passengers with vehicles capable of carrying a lot of luggage.

Vans with taxi or shuttle labels on their sides that aren’t dispatched by call taxi centers should fall under the category of illegitimate transportation services regardless of whether they’re equipped with fare meters. Therefore, whenever the police catch them, they should slap them with heavy penalties, including the cancellation of driver’s licenses.

The rate system should be fixed and clearly understandable. Currently, call vans bargain with passengers instead of charging them by the distance, often causing disagreements and unpleasant scenes with passengers. Now, authorities must come up with a reasonable rate system after consulting with the industry and cab users and display the fares within the taxis as well as at airports, train stations and hotels so that passengers - both foreigners and Koreans - are fully aware of what they will pay.

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