Previous rivals, taxi drivers and their modern alternatives have temporarily joined forces in protest against the new taxi act. Although the possibility of carrying passengers without a taximeter is only a problem for classic taxi drivers, the imposition of obligations and appreciable sanctions on dispatching and mobile platforms bothers both irreconcilable groups.
Both classic taxi drives in Taxi Dispatcher Union, as well as Estonian alternative transportation service Bolt, which has entered the Czech market named Taxify in summer 2015, want the new obligations and sanctions removed from the New Taxi Act. The sense of introducing intermediary liability is clear. They have been able to hide behind the fact that they merely allow an agreement between a taxi driver and a customer who needs a ride. For example, Bolt used the vague situation in the past to not to have to comply with the court ban on providing services in Prague.
The Municipal Court forbade it to do so by imposing an interim measure to not to operate a taxi service with drivers without a taxi driver license and in unregistered vehicles, but it still operates in Prague. In doing so, it argues that it is only responsible for developing the application and is thus not a transportation service provider or a broker.
A single “offender” will be enough“
Now, however, the company has turned around and claims that the responsibility of intermediaries is needed. However, according to its boss, the ministry’s requirements are too strict and sanctions cruel. If the inspection finds out that the driver is driving without a taxi license or with a vehicle other than a registered taxi vehicle, the dispatching center or a mobile intermediary may be fined by a half a million. In the case of repeated violation, a three-year ban on activity.
“If the law passes as is, one unfair competitor, who would pay a single driver to register twice for each platform could close the whole market,” said Bolt’s Central Europe manager Roman Sysel. According to him, the intermediary is not in a position to continually check that all its drivers have the necessary paperwork in order and asks the intermediaries to check the driver only when they are recruited and not later on.
However, according to Ondřej Krátký of the competing Liftago, the whole legislative change would be pointless, and the state would thus lose any real possibility to enforce compliance to the rules.
The ministry is not planning any softening
„As the amendment will significantly simplify the operation of taxi services, it is essential that responsibility of carriers and drivers is transferred to the intermediary,” said the spokeswoman of the Ministry of Transportation, Lenka Rezková. The Office is therefore not planning to soften the rules.
According to the Office, the current situation where dispatching or mobile platforms have no obligations has a number of negative impacts on the taxi market and on the safety of their users. Some of the services are performed by drivers without a license required by law, a registered car or a taximeter. Because of this, they can be cheaper than their classic taxi competitors.
“In addition to settling the market conditions, this will provide greater protection for customers who will be assured that services will not be provided by such drivers, who have committed crimes in the past,” added Rezková. At the same time, the Ministry promises to the dispatching centers to create a website where they can check online whether their cooperating carriers and drivers have registered vehicles and taxi drivers’ licenses. It promises leniency in controls before this tool is created.
Until then, however, the obligation to control the driver is impossible said Radiotaxi AAA owner Jiří Kvasnička. But even after the introduction of the Internet tool, he believes that checking licenses will not be trouble-free, especially due to the amount of traffic that individual dispatch centers provide. This represents roughly four thousand daily trips in case of AAA company.
“Checking the required data must take a fraction of a second in case of 4,000 rides a day, otherwise the customer check-in times would be unacceptably long,” wrote Kvasnička in a letter to the lawmakers.