Tada under fire after driver shares photo of drunk passenger

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Tada under fire after driver shares photo of drunk passenger

Tada, a van-hailing service that claims to offer a higher level of service than taxis, is under fire over an anonymous group chat in which a driver shared photos of a drunk female passenger and other users left inappropriate comments suggesting what the driver should do with her.

Following reports detailing the messages, Tada released a statement on Tuesday saying what had happened was “wrong” and promised to take preventive measures. The driver who uploaded the photo was dismissed, it said.

The spark was ignited by a report from the Chosun Ilbo on Tuesday that showed a screen capture of the chat where the Tada driver shared a photo of a female customer lying asleep on the back seat. Her face did not appear in the photo.

The driver uploaded it questioning what he should do if the female customer didn’t wake up, and whether he should go straight to the police.

Comments followed from other anonymous members in the group chat included assessments on her appearance and one inappropriate comment that suggested the driver ask her whether they should go to a motel. The report added that the group chat contained similar comments in the past, where drivers would share stories about attractive female customers or sexist comments about women in general.

The group chat was an “open” chat room on Kakao Talk titled “Tada drivers,” but it was not locked with a password, so some of the commenters may have come from people who are unconnected with Tada.

Nonetheless, Tada pledged in its Tuesday statement that it would “enforce education on gender awareness to all of its drivers in cooperation with the driver agency.”

“With the lesson learned, Tada will create a new culture of zero discrimination and sexual harassment,” it added.

The company said it would “consider legal actions,” without adding any further detail. The driver who uploaded the photo was easily singled out because he eventually drove the customer to a police station, following Tada’s standard protocol.

Tada currently has agencies that hire and manage its drivers. Having launched the service in October last year, Tada has more than 50,000 users and operates around 1,000 vans in Seoul and Gyeonggi. Skeptics say it will be difficult for Tada to tighten its grip on such issues because drivers are not hired directly under the company.

Questions over Tada’s ability to verify the criminal records and behavior of its drivers have existed since its launch last year. When questioned on the matter in a press conference, VCNC CEO Park Jae-wook said the company would strictly look into drivers’ records.

But at the moment, Tada can only look into personal records on car accidents and drunk driving because the law does not allow companies to search for criminal records, with the exception of taxis and buses.

For Tada, the issue is a sensitive one, especially considering the support it received from female customers in the service’s early days. Based on early reviews of Tada on online communities, its quiet drivers who are required to refrain from “engaging in unnecessary conversations with customers” - in contrast to some overly-intrusive taxi drivers - were considered a major selling point for customers willing to pay a little more for a ride.

BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]
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