talk back

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 November, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 November, 2004, 12:00am

Q Would you be prepared to report a minibus driver for speeding?

I would report them for sure. People have become more concerned about the speeding problem of minibuses. I am glad that some action is finally being taken. I used to never dare complain to minibus drivers and risk making them mad. This would make them more prone to accidents. I am scared to death to ride on minibuses.

These drivers deserve a tougher penalty. We must act now and not wait for the next accident.

Cherie Ng, Tsuen Wan

Q Should passengers be prosecuted for fare bargaining?

What has this got to do with your headline 'Taxi Driver who gave discount jailed' (City, November 11)? Newspapers should clarify, rather than confuse, issues.

The taxi driver in question was not jailed for agreeing to give discounts. He was jailed for issuing receipts for fares greater than those paid. There is a big difference. Fare bargaining, provided that no coercion or deception of an employer or the Inland Revenue is involved, does not, and should not, constitute a crime.

Issuing a receipt for an amount greater than that paid, whether or not motivated by the desire for personal gain, is a conspiracy to defraud, which is a crime.

Whether or not the sentence is appropriate will depend on many factors, particularly the motive of the taxi driver. But, in all fairness to taxi drivers and their passengers, it should be made quite clear that, if it is not possible for a taxi driver to issue a correct receipt for the discounted fare, then discounts can only be given on condition that a receipt cannot be issued.

Peter Robertson, Sai Kung

Taxi drivers are willing to bargain with passengers for as long as the economy has not recovered. Drivers do not earn much each month. They have to hand in car rent to taxi companies. Passengers see fare bargaining as a common practice. When a taxi driver is not willing to offer a discount with a passenger, that passenger will shift to another taxi.

Taxi drivers then have no choice but to accept bargaining and a lower taxi fare. On the other hand, it violates free competition. Taxi fares based on distance travelled promote free competition. Each taxi driver should have the same competitive power. In my opinion, passengers engaging in fare bargaining should be prosecuted. Taxi drivers should have fair competition among them.

Howard Lo, Kwun Tong

Of course, passengers should be prosecuted. As the legislation states, fare bargaining is illegal for drivers; if passengers do that and are not prosecuted, it is very unfair to the drivers.

Very often the one who bargains is the passenger. If passengers demand a discount - and they sometimes shout at drivers if they refuse to give a discount - drivers are in a dilemma.

Drivers who need to feed their families need to earn more. Also, nowadays there are not many people taking taxis, so drivers' lives have become more difficult. As a result, drivers usually do not mind offering discounts to passengers.

Should the government be more practical? Educating passengers not to demand a discount can help drivers. At least drivers can have their self-esteem.

Christine Leung Lai-ling,

Yau Ma Tei

Q Should management companies relax rules on pets?

In many estates, bans on pets are imposed. I feel this is unfair for pet owners and pets themselves. Many of the people against pets being allowed in estates say they are unhygienic and cause problems.

I feel that these problems should not be the reason to separate pets from their loving owners. Many owners will risk being fined just to have their pets with them and I think that is enough to relax the ban - it shows they care. Also if the ban continues, many pets will be abandoned because the owners do not want to face the consequences.

This doesn't mean the government will allow all pets in these buildings - a restriction or warning should be made if any of these pet owners violate rules.

If any of these owners violate the rules a certain number of times, they should have to pay a large fine and face the possibility of having their pets removed.

Patrick Wong, Sha Tin

Q What is the most effective way to deter drivers from speeding?

To correct reader John Koh's recent letter, the most important safety feature on a car is the driver, not the brakes. If John really drives down all hills at 50km/h with a fear that his brakes are going to fail at any higher speed, he must really be the laughing stock of the Super Car Club.

Jeffrey Sweet, Sai Kung

On other matters ...

On November 2 while entering the MTR on the Island Line at Central heading for Admiralty amid the usual evening rush hour crush, I was the victim of theft when my wallet was lifted from my rear trouser pocket.

Losing the cash was bad enough. However, I knew I was in for the long haul, replacing my ID card, cancelling credit and bank cards.

At Admiralty station, I approached the MTR desk and was guided to the police post where I was attended by three constables who took my details and story of events, helped me to cancel my bank cards here and overseas and then arranged for me to travel to Central police station to give a statement.

At the police station the quality of response and attentiveness of the officer, Mr Ho, and his interpreter, Ms Chin, mirrored the excellent service provided by the three officers at the Admiralty police post.

The officers had a genuine conviction that I stood a reasonable chance of recovering my wallet, confidence that I didn't share at the time.

The next morning, a Mrs Lau called, saying my wallet had been thrown into her shop doorway in Johnston Road the previous night. I have now retrieved my wallet minus the obvious. It is gratifying to know that these people who aided me continue to represent all that is good about the place.

As for me, I do not think I shall be so restrained the next time, shoving and pushing on an MTR platform. And of course my wallet no longer resides in my back pocket.

Peter Denholm, Tsuen Wan

The recent coach accident in Taiwan has highlighted a problem waiting to happen here in Hong Kong since insurance companies started issuing a disclaimer to say they would not pay out in the event of a driver being drunk.

While I have every sympathy with the insurance companies and would support their attempts to recover their money from the drunk driver, it is the victim of the driver who loses out. Why should he/she have to suffer because the driver drank too much?

In 1979, I worked in Lesotho and the system they had there was that you bought third-party insurance with your road tax.

This insurance was for the car and would cover third parties even if the driver had stolen the car and was under the influence. I have always considered this to be an ideal system and believe it should be more widely adopted.

Perhaps Hong Kong should consider this before a similar event occurs here. Third-party insurance is intended to protect third parties and should remain in force whatever. The insurance company disclaimer should be that they will pursue the driver for their costs should an accident occur while he is drunk, not that they will not pay out to the victim.

Colin Williams, Tai Po