Chinese driver goes to court to fight 20,000 yuan fine for using Uber-like taxi-booking app

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 March, 2015, 3:56pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 August, 2015, 10:16am

A court in China's Shandong province will hear a landmark case concerning the use of taxi and private car booking apps.

The Intermediate People's Court of Jinan said on Monday that it would hear the case after a driver appealed against a 20,000 yuan (US$3,220) fine for using a taxi-booking app.

Jinan resident Chen Chao filed for a public hearing after he was hit with the fine when urban management officers (also known as chengguan) spotted him using Didi Dache's private and luxury car service app Zhuanche a week ago.

This will be the first legal case in China involving the ubiquitous taxi-booking apps and could impact the lucrative business, analysts say.

Yan Xin, the lawyer representing Chen, said that the case could result in the opening of the taxi market in China, according to Tencent Tech News.

"The case has not affected the Didi Zhuanche service in Beijing," a staff member at the company's customer service centre said.

Tencent-backed Didi Dache announced last month it was merging with rival Kuaidi Dache, in which Alibaba is a major investor. Between them, the two companies control more than 90 per cent of the Chinese taxi-booking market.

The two companies have faced increasing challenges from US-based Uber, which connects users with private cars as well as regular-licensed taxis in some areas.

Last year, Didi and Kuaidi both launched their own competing Uber-like services. With Didi Zhuanche allowing users to book a range of luxury cars from brands such as Mercedes Benz, Bentley, Porsche, and even electric-car maker Tesla.

Zhuanche is priced higher than Didi's regular service, at 22 yuan for the first three kilometres and then 4.6 yuan per kilometre, compared to 13 yuan for start and 2.3 yuan per kilometre in a taxi.

More than 150 million people across China used the Didi Dache app to book a taxi in 2014, according to the company.

In January, thousands of taxi drivers striked in Chengdu, Changchun, Jinan, Nanjing and Shenyang to protest the use of private car rental apps. Similar strikes and protests have taken place in Europe and America calling for more regulation of Uber and its competitors.

In Chengdu, the local government announced a ban on private and rental car companies providing taxi-like services.