Council Meetings (Question): Combating acts of taxi drivers deceiving tourists (2023.04.26)

MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Chinese): It has been reported that a Mainland resident, through issuing a social media post, claimed that she had encountered an incident of “taxi ripping passenger off” during her recent visit to Hong Kong, and the post subsequently attracted comments from numerous Mainland netizens sharing similar experiences. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the respective numbers of complaints received by the Government in each of the past five years about taxi drivers allegedly involved in illegal acts, such as overcharging, refusal to hire, driving to a destination other than by the most direct practicable route, etc., and the penalties imposed on the convicted persons;

(2) among the aforesaid complaint cases, of the percentage of those cases in which the passengers were tourists; the channels through which such passengers lodged their complaints, and the time normally required for processing such complaints;

(3) whether the authorities will increase the penalties to combat acts of taxi drivers deceiving tourists, and step up inspection and law enforcement efforts; if so, of the details; and

(4) whether it will enhance publicity and education work, such as distributing leaflets with references on taxi fares to tourists at popular tourist spots, so as to help tourists better understand the taxi fares in Hong Kong; if so, of the details?

President, after consulting the Security Bureau and the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF), our reply to Hon CHAN Kin-por’s question is as follows –

(1) & (2)

Passengers generally make complaints about alleged illegal acts of taxi drivers through the 1823 Call Centre under the Efficiency Unit, the Transport Complaints Unit (TCU) under the Transport Advisory Committee, or directly to the Transport Department (TD) and the HKPF. Upon receipt of such complaints, the 1823 Call Centre and the TCU will refer the cases to the TD and the HKPF for follow-up actions as appropriate.

In the past five years, the number of complaints received by the TD and the HKPF per year about suspected cases of taxi drivers involving in overcharging, refusing hire (including refusing or neglecting to accept a hire, and refusing or neglecting to drive the taxi to the place indicated by the hirer) and not driving to a destination other than by the most direct practicable route are set out in the two tables below respectively. The figures cover the complaints referred by the 1823 Call Centre, the TCU and other government departments or organisations. As the complainants may submit their complaints to different departments or organisations at the same time, the figures in the two tables below may overlap. Besides, as the complainants are not required to declare whether they are tourists, the TD and the HKPF do not keep the relevant statistics.

Upon receipt of a complaint, the TD will conduct investigation and request the taxi owner concerned to provide an explanation. Depending on the circumstances of the complaints, the TD will write to the taxi owners or drivers concerned to remind them of the need to comply with the law and pay attention to their attitude when providing services so as to maintain service quality. The TD will issue an interim reply within ten working days on receipt of a complaint, followed by a substantive reply within 21 working days. For cases that require longer processing time, the TD will also inform the complainants of the case progress as appropriate.

The TD has been closely monitoring public complaints about taxi services and will conduct surveys at taxi stands to monitor the taxi service quality and standard. The TD has enhanced its mechanism for handling complaints about taxi services by developing an internal database and consolidating the relevant complaint records. The database enables the TD to have a more effective grasp of the overall taxi service quality and analyse whether there is a rising trend of complaints in any particular areas, so that appropriate follow-up actions could be taken in a more effective and timely manner. The actions include providing the relevant information to the HKPF for carrying out appropriate follow-up investigations and enforcement actions to combat illegal acts of taxi drivers.

If a passenger reports or complains to the HKPF regarding an alleged illegal act of a taxi driver, the HKPF will, in accordance with the existing procedures, request the complainant to provide details of the case to facilitate their investigation. The time required for investigation for each ease will vary depending on their nature and complexity. The HKPF will maintain its professionalism and complete the relevant investigation and prosecution as soon as possible. If the person concerned is convicted by the court, the penalty may be immediate imprisonment, fine or other penalties (e.g. community service order).

(3) To further improve taxi service quality, the Government has earlier reviewed the overall taxi operation and management, and proposed to take forward a series of measures to enhance the development of the taxi industry. One of the proposed measures is to introduce the taxi-driver-offence points system and the two-tier penalty system for certain taxi-driver-related offences. This measure would help combat taxi drivers’ malpractices and enhance the deterrent effect against repeat offenders, thereby improving the overall quality of taxi services. The Government is formulating the details of the relevant legislative amendments and will submit them to the Legislative Council for scrutiny in due course. 

On enforcement, the HKPF has made targeted measures in all police districts (particularly those frequently visited by tourists), stepped up patrols at black spots, launched intelligence-led operations and enhanced publicity. The HKPF will continue to implement various effective measures, including disguising as passengers, to combat the illegal acts of taxi drivers.

(4) To help tourists understand the taxi fare arrangements in Hong Kong, the TD has published leaflets with taxi fare rates and the reference fares for journeying to and from major tourist areas and attractions in Hong Kong for distribution to tourists at the airport, major border crossings and tourist spots (e.g. Shenzhen Bay Port, Lok Ma Chau Control Point, Heung Yuen Wai Boundary Control Point and Hong Kong Disneyland).

In addition, the TD has uploaded the taxi fare reference leaflet onto its website for public viewing. The telephone numbers of the 1823 Call Centre, the TCU, the Hong Kong Tourism Board and the HKPF are also provided on the leaflet for tourists to seek assistance and lodge complaints when needed. The TD has also set up taxi information boards at major taxi stands to display information on taxi fares.

The HKPF will continue to adopt a three-pronged approach in publicity, education and enforcement, and communicate with the trade via the TD to remind taxi drivers to abide by the law.

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