Hongkongers overwhelmingly prefer Uber over taxis in wake of government crackdown: survey

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 September, 2015, 5:14pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 September, 2015, 7:06pm

A majority of Hongkongers who used the car-hailing service Uber said they had a positive experience, compared to less than a quarter of taxi customers, according to a new YouGov survey.

Difficulties in finding taxis and poor customer service from cab drivers were cited as the main reasons for choosing Uber over traditional services.

Among respondents who had used both Uber and general taxis, 79 per cent rated their experience with the US start-up as "good" or "excellent", compared to 22 per cent for traditional cabs.

In August, police arrested seven Uber drivers and three staff members in a raid on the firm's Hong Kong office.

Uber hit back with a publicity campaign calling on Hong Kong users to sign a petition supporting its operations in the city, attracting more than 50,000 signatures.

The police action was supported by local taxi organisations but was highly criticised on social media where users were highly critical of the "taxi monopoly".

In the YouGov poll, 55 per cent of respondents said the government should legalise Uber.

Two members of the Transport Advisory Committee have called on the government to relax regulations on taxi licenses and allow private car drivers to apply for them, a key point of contention among license holders who fear lower profitability. At present there are about 9,000 taxi-license holders and 40,000 drivers.

Taxi drivers have previously protested against Uber, and similar apps such as mainland Chinese tech giant backed Didi Kuaidi, which they claim are costing them business.

"Uber is a worldwide company. If other countries can accommodate it, why can't Hong Kong?" committee member Wesley Wan Wai-hei said in August.

Official figures obtained by the South China Morning Post showed a five-fold increase in complaints against taxi drivers in the past 11 years. Common grievances included drivers refusing a hire, overcharging and not taking the most direct route.

Similar complaints were expressed by respondents to the YouGov poll, with 38 per cent saying it was hard to find a taxi, while 48 per cent said they preferred Uber because customer service was better.

Cabs remained more popular overall however, with 33 per cent of respondents saying they used general taxis more often than Uber, compared to 23 per cent who used the app more.

Of the top three reasons respondents gave as to why they did not use Uber, almost half (45 per cent) said it was because they had no need for such a service.