Don’t let Uber ideologues take you for a ride

At the end of the day local taxi rides get you from A to B with little hassle at bargain basement prices, so who needs the services of the transport company?

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 December, 2017, 1:33am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 December, 2017, 1:33am

Throughout my primary school years, I rode a pak pai to school, so did many of my classmates. What’s a pak pai, you ask?

As an example, let me use the European Court of Justice’s latest judgment on Uber. It ruled the ride-hailing company is a transport firm and should be regulated as such because it connects “by means of a smartphone application and for remuneration, non-professional drivers using their own vehicle with persons who wish to make urban journeys”.

Replace “a smartphone” with a landline telephone in that sentence and it exactly describes what a pak pai was in the 1970s.

We were all riding Uber-like services before its founders were even born. The colonial government cracked down on pak pais and we were forced to ride taxis.

EU ruling on Uber will give Hong Kong an ‘excuse’ to block service, unless it follows taxi laws

They have made a comeback, however. Hype it up with “sharing economy” jargon and attract enough underemployed people with a driving licence, you get a multibillion-dollar valuation for your firm and think you can ignore transport laws and licensing rules in jurisdictions around the world.

And of course you always have hipsters with an iPhone surgically attached to their hands rallying against you and telling us old dinosaurs that we just don’t get it.

I can already hear that obligatory objection from local Uber fans: What about those horrible taxi drivers and their greedy cartels?

That’s “whataboutism” at its best – or worst. Some taxi drivers may be rude and some cabs dirty. And you can never find a taxi when you most need one. And those cartels and their allies in the legislature … Sure, there needs to be an overhaul of the industry.

But that’s not about Uber, unless you think everyone could be a pak pai in a free-for-all.

Uber: a no-Goa at Asia’s tourist hotspots?

Uber is a transport company and should be treated as such, in Hong Kong and elsewhere. Don’t let all the smoke and mirrors from the company and those “sharing economy” ideologues fool you.

Local taxi rides get you from A to B with little hassle at bargain basement prices. Cab drivers who cheat tourists just prove the point: fares are so cheap that foreign visitors think the inflated prices are still reasonable.

But how come, you ask, they have great taxi services in England, Japan or wherever?

Well, move over there and see if you can afford them.