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Thursday, July 13, 2017

On regulating e-hailing services

A tribunal should be established to resolve disputes between passengers, drivers and companies, and the government must not take a hands-off approach in regulating the taxi industry.

By Liew Chin Tong and Rajiv Rishyakaran
A DAP delegation met with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri on July 11 to discuss our views about the proposed amendments to the Land Public Transport Act 2010 and the Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board Act 1987.
We presented findings from a web-survey with e-hailing drivers which was conducted by the DAP research team and released to the public last week. Based on these findings, we proposed the following:
1. Establish a tribunal within the purview of the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) to resolve disputes arising between passengers, drivers and companies.
Such a tribunal should apply to both taxi and e-hailing services. The existing mechanism for arbitration is not easily accessible to the public/drivers, and the lengthy process will delay due course of action.
There is a need for a dedicated tribunal to handle taxi and e-hailing related complaints. E-hailing services give too much power to the consumers in relation to the drivers.
There should be an independent body which can adjudicate disputes between individual drivers and the respective companies. Such a mechanism will help drivers and passengers with grievances to be assured of a fair arbiter and for the legislations not to be seen as just siding with the big corporations, whether taxi or e-hailing.
2. The government has a role to play in remedying the legacy issues caused by the cronyistic pajak (permit) system. It must not take a hands-off approach in regulating the taxi industry but must be more intentional in levelling the playing field.
The rationale is that the government owes a duty of care towards taxi drivers who pay for their licences. They deserve to be represented as individual entities instead of merely having corporations decide their economic fates.
Many taxi drivers are bound by lopsided contracts which favour the taxi companies and leave them with little disposable income. They are unable to exit the industry before the 5-7 year repayment period is completed due to the high financial cost of breaking the bond.
3. There is a need to articulate the long-term road map and “game plan” that can uplift both the troubled taxi industry and the emerging e-hailing sector.
Governments around the world are adapting towards the emerging new model of the sharing economy. The government has a major role to play in ensuring that the playing field is able to accommodate both the existing industry and the new players.
4. It should be the goal to avoid dominant companies setting unsustainable price wars and controlling the trade which will hurt the industry in the long run.
SPAD should not allow a duo-poly or oligopoly to exist but open up the market to various players keen to enter the industry. One way to do that is to ensure a cap on commission collected by the e-hailing provider. SPAD as the oversight body should set parameters for the fare structure and commission structure for e-hailing companies.
5. Legislation must look into ways to improve the safety of drivers and passengers.
We hope the relevant ministries will take these into consideration when the bill is tabled in Parliament at the end of the month.
Liew Chin Tong is Kluang MP and DAP central executive council member. Rajiv Rishyakaran is state assemblyman for Bukit Gasing. -FMT

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