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Seoul’s app will force cabbies to take customers

May 30,2019
Cab drivers in Seoul are raising a furor over the Seoul city government’s new taxi-hailing app, which will force drivers to answer customers’ calls and pick them up, and penalizes any driver who refuses the request.

All taxi drivers in the city are mandated to use the app starting Saturday, according to the city government.

“The S-Taxi App is a mobile application that helps users identify idle cabs around them,” the Seoul Metropolitan Government said in its statement on Wednesday. “The cab drivers called by users cannot pick and choose them based on the destinations of users, which has been a problem with some mobile applications used for hailing down cabs.”

Once the closest empty cab is matched with a customer, the driver will have to take that customer without knowing the information on their destination in advance.

The mobile application S-Taxi App will be launched on Google Play for Android phones on Saturday. It is not yet available on iPhone, the city government said.

While users have to download the app on their mobile phones, the cab drivers need not take any action, the city government said, as it will be automatically installed in the smart-card payment system that all cab drivers in the city are required to have installed in their cabs.

“All taxi drivers in Seoul are mandated to answer the calls,” a city government official told the JoongAng Ilbo. “If a call comes in from a customer through the S-Taxi App and the cab driver refuses to take the customer, the city government will investigate the driver. We are reviewing the policy of fining cab drivers who refuse calls coming in from the S-Taxi App.”

The Seoul Taxi Association sent a text message to its roughly 50,000 members on Tuesday informing them about the launch of the app on Saturday. It added that the association has told the city government that “drivers would not react well to such a measure to force drivers to take customers.”

“I’m sorry, but are we living in a communist country?” one cab driver told the Korea JoongAng Daily upon receiving this text message on Tuesday. “What happened to our freedom of choice? I have the right to refuse to participate in this program.”

“You know there are already cab drivers who refuse to use the existing mobile applications,” said a cab driver in his 60s in Seoul. “It makes no sense that the government would force drivers to take customers.”

The Seoul government and the association of cab drivers are trying to reach a compromise, according to the city government. The association said it requested that if a cab is hailed by the S-Taxi App, the customer must pay an extra 3,000 won ($2.50) in addition to the base fee.

“We are discussing if there should be such an additional fee, and if so, what the exact amount should be,” a city government official told the JoongAng Ilbo.

BY LIM SUN-YOUNG, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]