Taxi overcharging crackdown threatened

The Public Transport Board will begin taking actions to stop taxi drivers from overcharging passengers.

However, regulations attached to the Traffic Law in 2008 requiring the metering of all taxis remain in limbo while the Transportation Board audits the structure of the Cayman Islands transportation system.

Public Transportation Board Chairman Shomari Scott, who is also the acting director of Tourism, said the practice of taxi drivers overcharging could hurt tourism.

‘The Public Transportation Board understands the negative impact overcharging can have on visitors and residents alike and is dedicated to curbing these practices,’ he said. ‘This is also a critical success factor for the tourism industry and the PTB will be informing the Ministry [of Tourism] of the deficits, whether human resource wise or structurally, and making suggestions as to how we can correct some of the current problems and issues.’

One practice in particular the Public Transportation Board plans to investigate involves taxi drivers charging full fares to multiple passengers they carry at one time.

‘The ability to charge multiple full fares was implemented in the mid-1990s by the Civil Aviation Authority strictly for use at the airport because of the lack of registered taxis,’ he said. ‘This practice has made its way, quite inappropriately, into street operations and the Public Transport Unit does take action when it receives reports of incorrect charging.’

Mr. Scott said there was also another way of curbing the practice that will be instituted soon.

‘One recommendation that will be implemented shortly is to have random checks – [like] mystery shoppers – in order to catch offenders and act as a deterrent to others.’

However, the issue of metering is more complicated. Regulation 9 of The Public Passenger Vehicles (Amendment) Regulations, 2008, which are part of the Traffic Law (2003 Revision), specifically bars taxis from carrying passengers for hire or reward unless the taxi is fitted with a taximeter that has been approved and tested by the Public Transport Board.

Those regulations, however, have never been implemented.

Mr. Scott said that as part of the audit of Cayman’s transportation system, the Transportation Board would review and make recommendations on the function and resource allocation needed within the Public Transport Unit to be effective and to more efficiently monitor and implement the rules and regulations.

‘The PTB is of the opinion that the audit and review is long overdue and the recommendations will be critical to the long term viability – and credibility – of the industry,’ he said. ‘Metering is one of the items under review and the [Request for Proposal] for this will be issued shortly.’

Mr. Scott said action was coming soon.

‘The [Public Transport Unit] should also shortly have a director and therefore additional staff can be hired to ensure that all changes and recommendations are properly and swiftly implemented.’

In a recent letter to the editor printed in the Caymanian Compass, a woman complained that a taxi driver told her the rate quoted at the airport taxi stand was incorrect and that she’d have to pay more. Another report received by a Compass reporter indicated one man was charged $50 by a taxi driver to go from Seven Mile Beach to South Sound.

Public Transport Board Secretary David Dixon said there is something people can do even now if they feel they have been overcharged by a taxi driver.

‘What we do when we hear of a customer getting overcharged is encourage them to file a report with the Public Transport Board,’ he said.

Mr. Dixon said that all taxi drivers are required to post notices of their name and identification number inside the taxi.