SINGAPORE: The taxi industry in Hong Kong on Thursday (Dec 7) threatened to challenge the government if it accepts a consumer watchdog’s recommendation to allow ride-hailing services in the city, reported the South China Morning Post.
On Nov 28, the Hong Kong Consumer Council published a report stating that consumer needs should be met by “utilising new technologies” and having increased competition by allowing both taxis and e-hailing services into the market.
The report added that “it would be desirable to impose fewer requirements for e-hailing services as far as possible”.
This includes relaxing the requirements on the existing 1,500 hire-car permits to allow car-hailing firms like Uber to operate legally.
The report added the firms should be subject to stringent rules. For instance, cars used should not be more than seven years old and drivers must have at least three years’ of driving experience.
However, a coalition speaking on behalf of 18,000 members of the taxi industry warned that it could launch a judicial review against the government if the suggestions were accepted.
“We are now seeking legal advice. If the government actually adopts the Consumer Council’s suggestions to legalise ride-hailing firms in Hong Kong, we won’t rule out launching a judicial review against the government as such a policy would hurt the taxi industry,” Don Li Lam-cheung of the Association for the Rights of Liberty Taxi Drivers told the South China Morning Post.
Mr Don also called it “unfair” that e-hailing operators were spared from paying licensing fees, while taxi operators had to pay HK$7 million (US$896,000) for a taxi licence.
The Association for Taxi Industry Development, another group representing 5,000 taxi drivers, said that it would launch a signature campaign to have the council “review its stance on the issue”.
The second group also criticised the council for not condemning Uber’s “illegal operations”.
The council responded, saying that it had “never encouraged illegal ride-hailing”.
“In fact, we have warned consumers about the risks of taking such rides, such as the lack of third-party insurance,” a spokesperson told the South China Morning Post.
The spokesperson added that the watchdog’s intention was to study the different approaches taken by overseas governments in dealing with such service providers and come up with suggestions on their sustainable development in Hong Kong.