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Ban on taxi booking apps during rush hours
By Ma Yue

Shanghai has ordered taxi drivers to stop use taxi booking apps during rush hours from Saturday.

The notice issued to cabbies by the city’s transportation management department and traffic law enforcement team yesterday aims to ease the difficulty of hailing taxis on the street. Drivers will not be allowed to take orders via the apps from 7:30am to 9:30am and 4:30pm to 6:30pm from Saturday.

Drivers will also not be allowed to use cellphones or other mobile facilities when passengers are in their vehicles.

Meanwhile, drivers of vehicles licensed for hire will not be allowed to take business via taxi booking apps.

The Shanghai Transport and Port Administration said it would hold another round of talks today with the owners of Kuaidi Taxi and Didi Taxi, the two apps that account for the major share of Shanghai’s taxi booking software market.

It said the apps will not be allowed to provide drivers with bookings when there is already a passenger onboard. They should also cooperate with the taxi companies’ dispatching systems, which will ensure drivers change the top light of a cab to “dispatched” from “available” to avoid misleading people trying to hail taxis.

If Kuaidi or Didi fail to meet the above conditions, they will be ordered to suspend their apps.

From Saturday, taxi drivers who refuse to stop for passengers at legal hailing spots with top lights showing “available” during rush hours will be seen as “rejecting passengers.”

Passengers can file complaints with the urban construction hotline 12319, or the taxi companies.

Drivers who are found turning down fares or choosing between passengers will face a 200 yuan (US$32.66) fine and a 15-day suspension, or have their license revoked in serious situations.

Passengers can take pictures or recordings as proof when a driver takes phone calls or use a cellphone during a ride, and report to the hotline.

Drivers who ask for extra money will be ordered to return it and pay passengers twice the amount in compensation, the notice said.

Taxis are also banned from carrying taxi booking software ads inside the vehicle. A warning will be issued followed by a 1,000 yuan fine per car.

Taxis who refuse to wait in line for passengers at airports and railway and bus stations will face a 200 yuan fine, or suspension for up to 15 days in serious situations.

Shanghai Transport and Port Administration said the marketing practices of the taxi booking software companies, the tips function of the apps, and the simple registration steps for drivers and users were unfair and had upset the proper order of the city’s taxi market, harming the fine image the Shanghai taxi industry had built up over the years.

In their further efforts to better regulate the taxi industry, the administration plans to add more taxis during rush hours to meet demand.

They will hold assessments of the booking apps and formulate plans for their future management.

The traffic authority is also urging the software companies to double check the qualifications of drivers seeking to register to use the booking apps.

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