Cab companies: Over-charging is illegal
Robert Singer | Friday, November 6, 2009
Students may be powerless to stop the pain of rising tuition costs or the falling temperatures, but they can do something to prevent cab drivers from illegally increasing their fares on the weekends, according to Modern Cab Company manager Jean Ntakirutimana.
“I’ve heard students tell me that the driver has charged them five dollars to go from Main Circle to downtown,” said Kerry Clear, president of Blue Ribbon Taxi. “That is kind of silly.”
If students think they have been charged more than the company’s rate — which is considered price gouging and made illegal by city ordinances — they can report the cab driver to his or her company, Ntakirutimana said.
“If it happens, it may be with drivers who may seem to be greedy. [Students] can look outside of the car and look up the cab number and report the driver immediately to the cab company, so we can take care of the situation,” she said. “There is a phone number on the doors of the vehicle and also a cab number.”
Manager for Irish Cab Barry Marcucci said the rate is $3 for people traveling within a three-mile radius of campus. But the total payment to the driver must be at least six dollars, effectively setting the minimum number of passengers at two to qualify for this rate. And while the driver may negotiate a lower price, he or she cannot attempt to charge more than three dollars per person.
This policy is used by many of the local cab services, according to Ntakirutimana and Clear.
Blue Ribbon Taxi actively tries to prevent its drivers from price gouging, Clear said.
However, he cautioned that students should be aware that the $3 rate only applies if everyone in their group is riding to the same destination.
“We go over price gouging on a regular basis,” Clear said. “Students have to understand that three dollars each is if they are all going to the same spot. If they all want to get dropped off at different locations, we’re going to have to do something different.”
The struggling economy has hurt Modern Cab Company’s business, according to Ntakirutimana, who said students account for about 30 percent of the company’s customers.
Clear has also seen an overall decrease in demand, but he mentioned another cause — students are going out less and now only make up about 40 percent of Blue Ribbon Taxi’s business.
“It used to be a lot,” Clear said of the percentage of business coming from students. “But students have stopped partying as much. I think maybe students, maybe the University has put the squeeze on them or what, but there definitely isn’t as much partying as there was two years ago.”
Despite the dip in business and the inevitable pressure to maintain revenues, Clear said he hasn’t gotten any reports about his drivers price gouging.
“I haven’t gotten any complaints of overcharging for one thing,” he said. “And for another thing, I try to hire drivers that are conscientious people.”
Clear also said even if students cannot find the sought-after two dollar cab, the benefits provided to them justify the expense, especially considering the amount many will spend once they reach their destination.
“Students complain a lot of times when they have to pay three dollars,” he said. “One thing to consider is I bet they’re spending a lot more than three dollars at the bars.”