GrabTaxi to abolish tips for cabbies

Taxi-booking app GrabTaxi will remove its much-touted reward system for drivers here.
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SINGAPORE - It had promised to "revolutionise" taxi bookings in Singapore by connecting cabbies with passengers who were willing to pay more to be picked up.

But taxi-booking app GrabTaxi has hit a speed bump in Singapore.

By next year, it will remove its much-touted reward system for drivers, which allows customers to offer cabbies a tip for picking them up.

This comes after a recent discussion that GrabTaxi's founders had with the Land Transport Authority (LTA), said a company spokesman, and the move is to "ensure GrabTaxi is compliant with Singapore's regulations".

He declined to elaborate on the regulations.

When approached, LTA said it is "reviewing the impact of taxi-booking applications which are developed by third parties (and) which it currently does not regulate".

LTA added that "taxi drivers are not allowed to overcharge their passengers by collecting fares that are not set or exceed those set by their taxi operator".

GrabTaxi's reward function will remain in other countries where it has a presence, such as Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

Transport economist Anthony Chin of the National University of Singapore said there could be concerns that taxi bookings may become too market driven and benefit those who are willing to pay.

"(The move is) perhaps to ensure a sense of fairness. (In Singapore), taxis are seen as a 'filler' between public and private transport, and if this 'filler' is not being made available to those who really need it, then it may create some kind of socio-political problem," noted Professor Chin.

He added that more analysis is required to find out if the GrabTaxi app was indeed influencing the behaviour of taxi drivers to pick up only customers who dangle rewards.

Besides GrabTaxi, third-party apps such as MoobiTaxi and EasyTaxi have been introduced in Singapore recently, which allow customers to make bookings for taxis from multiple companies.

GrabTaxi, which was launched in mid-October, is the only one which has a reward function - which taxi drivers say is not often used.

Cabby Armstrong Ho, 45, who has been using GrabTaxi for around three months, said he typically receives between $3 and $5 in rewards from passengers. But only three out of 10 customers make use of the function.

Another driver, Mr Jason Low, 47, is still happy to see more of such apps as some have been paying drivers to take bookings from them during a promotional period. A driver can get S$5 to S$8 for each booking he accepts from them.

"I have seen my takings go up by 30 per cent, and I spend less time driving around looking for customers," he said.


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