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Transport authority does not approve of tipping apps

By CAO YIN in Beijing and SHI YINGYING in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2013-05-30 03:24

The tipping function in some smartphone apps for taxi hires will be banned as of June, according to the Beijing transport authority.

Some smartphone apps are increasing in popularity as they provide business for taxi drivers and help passengers find transportation.

However, these apps allow users to offer tips to drivers and essentially bargain for rides, and are not good for the industry's development, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport said.

On June 1, the authority will launch an online platform for 24-hour taxi bookings, effectively circumventing apps with tipping functions.

Taxi drivers should follow the meter and are forbidden from bargaining with passengers, the authority said, adding that it will supervise the industry and hopes to clean up certain apps' tipping functions soon.

Kou Fei, 25, a resident in Beijing, welcomed the cleanup, as she said tipping could mean drivers price themselves out of the market.

She succeeded in taking a taxi from Wangfujing, in downtown Beijing, to the airport two weeks ago without haggling over the price.

"It might seem that bidding for a ride makes it easier to take a taxi, but actually it damages customers' interest," Kou said.

Li Guang, a Beijing taxi driver, agreed with Kou. He said that most passengers do not use the apps' tipping function, unless they have urgent things to do or it's a rainy day.

"Banning the function won't affect me too much, but I have to say I will choose those who offer a higher price instead of those who offer lower ones," he added.

Earlier in May, the transport authority in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, also regulated taxis and asked drivers not to respond to apps with a tipping function due to concerns over the effect these apps would have on the industry.

Ding Limin, a professor specializing in traffic safety at the Chinese People's Public Security University, approved the ban, as he said bidding for a ride will destroy order in the industry.

"Every industry has its own rules, and taxis can be taken as a service industry. If more taxi drivers ask tips from passengers, the industry will be driven by this interest and become a mess," he said.

However, Shanghai's traffic authority has welcomed the introduction of such taxi apps, though it has some concerns over the tipping system.

Sun Jianping, head of the Shanghai Municipal Transport and Port Authority, said the authority should not quickly say "no" to new things that benefit cabbies and passengers.

"The app is a new format for taxi reservations, and it is worth considering because taxi drivers don't need to waste gas going in circles searching for passengers. It is also more convenient for passengers," he said.

"However, we need a standard management method to constrain the ‘tipping system'."

Zhao Dong, CEO of app developer Kuaididache, said banning the tipping function will not affect his business "because only 20 percent of our 50,000 daily bookings bid for rides".

"Booking a taxi through a mobile phone app isn't a conflict with calling a taxi company's dispatch center as they could be two methods in parallel," he said.

Zhao said more than 10,000 taxi drivers in the capital had installed the app.

Chen Weiming, who has worked for Dazhong Taxi Corp in Shanghai for more than 10 years, said the app gets as much criticism as it does praise from passengers.

"Many of my passengers complained about the ‘auction in disguise'," he said.

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