SINGAPORE'S Land Transport Authority (LTA) will introduce a basic regulatory framework to govern third-party taxi booking services. The new rules are expected to come into effect by the second quarter of 2015.
The LTA said on Friday that third-party taxi booking services which facilitate more efficient matching of taxis with commuters have become increasingly popular. The new rules are needed to "safeguard commuter safety and interests''.
Going forward, all third-party taxi booking services are required to register with LTA to operate in Singapore. Successful applicants will be granted a certificate of registration valid for three years.
They can despatch only licensed taxis and drivers holding valid Taxi Driver's Vocational Licences. LTA said this ensures that commuters are served by taxis and taxi drivers who are operating legally in Singapore.
Operators must also disclose all information on the fare rates, surcharges and fees payable for the journey upfront, before commuters accept the dispatched taxi.
To ensure that taxi services remain equally accessible to all members of the public, bidding and pre-trip tipping for taxi services will not be allowed. In addition, the booking fees charged by third-party taxi booking services cannot exceed the booking fees charged by taxi companies.
LTA said taxi booking services cannot require commuters to specify their destinations before they can make bookings as "there are concerns that some taxi drivers may choose their passengers and avoid taking bookings to certain destinations''.
Third-party taxi booking services will be required to provide basic customer support services, which include lost and found services and avenues for commuters to raise queries and complaints.
LTA said while the regulations are expected to be implemented only in the second quarter of 2015 after the necessary legislative processes are completed, taxi booking services and taxi companies are encouraged to begin their preparations to comply with these regulations.
LTA has consulted commuters, the National Taxi Association (NTA), third-party taxi booking services and taxi companies extensively over the past year on the regulatory framework.