CCTV in your cab? Hong Kong taxi group offers trial run to improve customer service

Association hopes plan wins government backing and persuades it to shelve premium taxi scheme

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 September, 2016, 8:44pm
UPDATED : Monday, 19 September, 2016, 10:58pm

In a desperate bid to salvage Hong Kong cabbies’ image and ward off a proposed premium taxi scheme, a newly founded taxi group is introducing 10 CCTV-equipped taxis for a trial run next week to improve the sector’s quality of service.

The Association of Taxi Industry Development, formed by taxi firm owners and involving 5,000 taxis, announced the move on Monday to address customer complaints about taxi drivers’ poor attitude and misconduct, including overcharging, taking unnecessarily long routes, and cherry-picking or refusing passengers.

Its spokesman Chan Man-keung said the members would review the trial scheme after a few months and hopefully gain government support to regulate the industry by legislating the CCTV taxi scheme. The camera data is to be used as evidence to ease disputes between drivers and their passengers.

“We hope that within one year there will be over 2,000 taxis joining this scheme and that eventually all 18,000 taxis will join us,” he said.

“Eventually we hope the government will introduce legislation to make the CCTV system mandatory for taxis,” he added.

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A Transport Department spokeswoman said the government had no plans now to subsidise the installation of CCTV in local taxis as it was an individual taxi owner’s decision to make.

She raised concerns about passengers’ privacy and said the move should comply with the privacy law.

Eventually we hope the government will introduce legislation to make the CCTV system mandatory for taxis
Chan Man-keung, Association of Taxi Industry Development

Under the scheme, which costs over HK$1,000 to install a camera in a vehicle, 10 cabs would be equipped with a CCTV system to record taxi rides and exchanges between drivers and passengers.

To address concerns raised by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, CCTV labels, in both English and Chinese, would be placed inside the vehicle and at the door to clearly show it is equipped with CCTV. Drivers would verbally notify passengers they had just entered a CCTV cab.

Also, the storage system would be encrypted and could only be accessed after gaining the association’s consent. The CCTV data would be held confidentially and destroyed after being kept for one month. In future, the association would join with taxi drivers’ groups to set up a hotline to handle complaints.

Another association spokesman Ng Kam-wah said he hoped the self-regulatory move would prompt the government to shelve its proposed premium taxi scheme under which 600 premium taxis are to be introduced through franchises.

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“We see the need to organise this ‘saving the taxi trade campaign’ because our sector is seriously threatened by a lack of cabbies, a tarnished reputation and also premium taxis,” he said.

The association believed complaints about taxi drivers were falling as government figures showed 2,188 complaints in the first quarter of this year, down from 2,668 in the preceding quarter.

Association member Francis Li Chiu-fan said much of the criticism was unfair. He argued the entire industry was being shamed because of a few bad drivers.

“With this surveillance system, we really hope to improve our sector’s service quality and restore public confidence in taxi drivers,” he said.