Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Email this article
LCQ1: Combating malpractices of taxi drivers

     Following is a question by the Hon Frankie Yick and a reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, in the Legislative Council today (December 9):


     According to Road Traffic (Public Service Vehicles) Regulations, a taxi driver commits an offence if he overcharges taxi fares, refuses hire and solicits business, and he is liable on conviction to a third-level fine (i.e. $10,000) and an imprisonment of six months. Although the Police take law enforcement actions against such illegal practices from time to time, such kind of cases are still often heard of. Some taxi drivers have pointed out that the image of the entire industry has been tarnished by the illegal practices of a small group of bad elements of the taxi trade, and the business of law-abiding drivers has also been affected. They call on the Government to step up its efforts to combat illegal practices of taxi drivers, so as to stop the undesirable trend from spreading. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of taxi drivers prosecuted for committing offences involving taxi services, a breakdown of the number of convictions of drivers by offence and by the penalty handed down by the court, as well as a breakdown of the number of convicted drivers and the penalties imposed on them by the number of times for which individual drivers were convicted, in the past five years;

(2) whether the authorities lodged appeals in the past five years against the sentences imposed on law-offending taxi drivers by the court which were too lenient; if they did, of the details, if not, the reasons for that; and

(3) whether the authorities will increase the penalties on the illegal practices of taxi drivers, such as stipulating that repeated offenders will definitely be disqualified for life from driving taxis, so as to enhance the deterrent effect; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that, and the authorities' measures that can effectively combat the illegal practices of taxi drivers?



     Taxis provide passengers with a personalised, point-to-point and more comfortable service.  They play a key role in the public transport system in Hong Kong.  

     Taxi service is regulated under the Road Traffic Ordinance (Cap. 374) (Ordinance) and its subsidiary legislation.  The law stipulates the general conduct to be observed by taxi drivers when providing service and regulates various malpractices relating to taxi service.  Such malpractices include those of greater public concern, such as overcharging, refusal to hire and not using the most direct practicable route.  Under the Ordinance, the maximum penalties for these three types of malpractices are a fine of $10,000 and imprisonment for six months.  Upon conviction of any of the three types of malpractices, the court may, on top of imposing a fine and/or a term of imprisonment, disqualify the offender from driving a taxi, i.e. so-called "licence suspension", for a certain period of time.  Currently, the law does not stipulate a limit on the maximum period of such disqualification.

     My consolidated reply to the various parts of Hon Frankie Yick's question is as follows.

     The Government has all along been assisting the taxi trade to maintain quality service and reasonable fare levels.  At the same time, to protect consumers' interests, enforcement actions are taken against any malpractices by the taxi trade.  In recent years, the number of taxi service-related complaints filed by passengers is generally on the rise and the Government is concerned.  The Police have stepped up enforcement actions, particularly targeting places frequented by visitors (such as peak tramway termini, Lan Kwai Fong, etc.).  Decoy operations have been carried out at these locations to combat the malpractices of taxi drivers.  With regard to practices of overcharging, refusal to hire and not using the most direct practicable route, the Police have prosecuted 990 cases over the past five-plus years (between 2010 and October this year).  Details are set out in Annex 1.  If the prosecution sees the need to follow up with the judgment (for example, if the sentence is considered too lenient), it can apply for a review of the sentence according to the established procedure.  Over the past five-plus years, the Police have not lodged any appeal on the ground of lenient sentencing.

     As observed in the figures at Annex 1, prosecution figures in connection with overcharging, refusal to hire and not using the most direct practicable route were all on the rise over the past five-plus years.  Take refusal to hire as an example, the number of prosecutions rose from 28 cases in 2010 to 128 cases last year.  The figure this year (up to October) has already reached 167.  Over the past five-plus years, the highest penalties imposed by the court against such malpractices were a fine of $5,500 (for not using the most direct practicable route), licence suspension for 9 months (for overcharging) and an imprisonment for 3 months (for overcharging).  It is noteworthy that overcharging cases ended up with a licence suspension penalty increased significantly from 8 cases in the whole of 2012 to 17 cases this year (up to October).  Separately, among the 58 prosecution cases for overcharging in the first ten months of this year, 30 cases were convicted.  Among these, 14 cases were given an imprisonment sentence (or suspended sentence) and ended up with licence suspension at the same time.

     The above data on prosecution and sentencing illustrate the actual situation with respect to the enhanced enforcement efforts taken by the Police and court judgments.  Apart from the above malpractices of greater public concern, the Police also instituted prosecution against other malpractices of taxi service (such as soliciting passengers, accepting hire while not following the queue at taxi stands and seatbelt-related offences).  In the first ten months of this year, the Police instituted 1,149 prosecution cases against these malpractices.

     For a repeated offender, the prosecution would provide information on similar offences committed by the person concerned before to the court for its consideration.  Take the recent court judgments on overcharging cases between January and October this year as an example, 12 offenders committed taxi-related offences in the past.  Based on the information obtained, the sentences handed down by the court to these repeated offenders are apparently heavier.  First-time offenders are normally fined, while repeated offenders are more often sentenced to licence suspension and imprisonment at the same time.  Please see Annex 2 for details.

     The law as it is has already provided for a comprehensive range of penalties at varying degrees to tackle taxi malpractices.   Precedent cases show that the court has not invoked the maximum penalty so far, suggesting that the current penalty level is sufficient.  As we understand it, the court will consider various factors of and hand down an appropriate judgment for each case.  The Government therefore does not see the need to consider increasing the penalty level at this stage.  Nevertheless, the Government will continue to closely monitor law enforcement actions and court judgments against taxi malpractices.  At the same time, as mentioned above, if the accused person is a repeated offender, the prosecution will provide the court with relevant information for consideration.  

     In addition, we also consider it necessary to step up publicity and education efforts targeting the taxi trade.  The Transport Department has all along been communicating with the trade to remind them of the importance of abiding by the law.  Meanwhile, information, including that on fare levels, reference fares for traveling to major destinations and telephone helplines, has been disseminated to passengers through various channels.  The department will provide the taxi trade with information on law enforcement and court judgments relating to taxi malpractices at taxi trade conferences on a regular basis.

Ends/Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Issued at HKT 12:27


Print this page