Monday, 17 August 2015

Using officers to stop Uber is just a waste

South China Morning Post published my letter about the Uber car-hailing service, on 14th August.  Usually my letters are untouched, but this time a bit of bowdlerising.  I think they deleted my comment about the law being an "ass" because they think "ass" is American for arse.... Of course it's "ass" as in a donkey.  Just a guess, but they also removed my reference to sitting on one's "butt", so they may have a thing about posteriors.
Anyway, the other letters on the issue of Uber vs taxis were pretty anti taxi.  I predicted that Uber would win this battle.  Since then, there've been articles about the number of complaints against taxis -- up fivefold in the last ten years.  And articles saying the bureaucrats and the law need to catch up (my point about the law being an ass), or they'll get "ubered".
Anyway, here's my letter and a few others after it on the Uber vs taxis topic, with my addition back of what they cut, in red and added.

Using officers to stop Uber is just a waste
Don't the police have anything better to do than to pose as customers of Uber and then to arrest its drivers?
I refer to the report "Five arrested in crackdown on Uber" (August 12).
Chief Inspector Bruce Hung Hin-kau "appealed to the public not to use such services". But why should we not?
Uber is a hugely popular car-hailing service.
The reasons are simple: cars come on demand, are new and clean, have friendly, courteous service, and payment is automated by credit card. For this, people vote with their thumbs, willing to pay more than they do for the equivalent taxi trip.
Instead of kowtowing to "pressure from the powerful taxi lobby", the government should tell the taxi owners to get  off their butts and compete start competing.
They could make their own app, accept credit cards and provide thumb-based app hailing. Instead, the taxi owners want to sit on their hands and rake in monopoly monopolised profits, using the government to protect them.
What's happened to the government's commitment to more competition in our economy?
The only issue they should be focusing on is to ensure that Uber drivers have proper commercial insurance.
The public should pay no heed to Hung's appeal not to use Uber. Instead we should all download the Uber App and use it. Uber could protect itself by asking customers to confirm they are not undercover agents. 
The way forward lies in changing the law if the law is proving an "ass" clearly wrong, not in wasting police resources on trying to stem the tide of a service that the public clearly wants.
Taxi drivers must ask who is at fault
Police have been applauded by taxi drivers for their high-profile crackdown on Uber operators in Hong Kong. But have these drivers given any thought to the level of service they give to the public?
How many times have readers been refused a ride by a taxi during rush hour?
How many times have they had the same experience during a downpour? Try getting a taxi on Queen's Road Central at 6pm on a weekday.
Taxi drivers are notorious for "selecting" passengers to their preferred destinations rather than meeting passengers' needs. Yet our police have always refused to address this issue in a fair manner.
The police commissioner should remind himself that when a cabbie refuses a passenger without a valid reason, he commits an offence.
Joseph Lee, Quarry Bay
Police should arrest cabbies who break law
I find it very interesting that the police have now arrested members of Uber.
I do not use Uber because of this very issue of legality. But what I find amazing is that, to my knowledge, no taxi drivers have been arrested for overcharging, refusing to stop or refusing fares - actions that are also illegal.
I live in the New Territories, and every week at the Kowloon taxi stand, they pull up, and then when you tell them your destination, they either drive away or simply refuse to take you and put the "out of service" card on the windscreen.
While waiting for 10 to 30 minutes (depending on time of the evening) for a taxi, there are three to five Uber cars available to transport people.
Rather than taxi drivers continuously complaining about Uber and other car-hire companies that may be unauthorised, why don't they do the job they are supposed to be doing? And, more to the point, why don't the police (or another relevant government department) stop the taxi drivers' illegal actions?
That would then leave no room for allegedly illegal firms to operate.
Brian Mahoney, Ma On Shan