GrabTaxi remains the only form of a taxi company in Phuket with all other taxis geared – or dedicated – to serving tourists as “privately hired taxi vehicles”.
A customer service representative at GrabTaxi’s call centre explained to The Phuket News, “We increased the surcharge in November from B50 to B150, but on the meter the surcharge will start from B50.
“Everything we show in the app for customers to see,” the representative added.
Asked why the increase in the “booking fee” applied only to Phuket, the representative explained, “In Phuket there are many hills, (and because of) the fuel costs, including the long distances between each (pickup and drop-off) point.”
Prapai Suankul, Senior Policy Specialist at the Phuket Land Transport Office (PLTO), confirmed that the “surcharge” hike was legal, and that there was nothing his office could do about it.
Indeed, he said he was unaware of the booking fee hike until he was informed of it by The Phuket News.
“They are not charging any more than the legal amount set by law as the rates. This is a surchage, which is a matter between the customer and the company,” Mr Prapai said.
Mr Prapai thanked The Phuket News for bringing this to his attention. “I will arrange to discuss this matter with the company,” he said.
Mr Prapai admitted that Phuket has – as well known for many years – the most expensive taxi rates in the country.
“Taxi (meter) prices in Phuket are the highest in Thailand, and there are about 350 metered taxis in Phuket,” he said.
Metered taxis in Phuket charge B50 for the first two kilometres, then B12/km for the next 13km (up to the 15km journey mark), then B10/km thereafter.
The current rates were introduced in 2014. By law, all taxi rates in the country are set by a national committee at the Land Transport Department headquarters in Bangkok.
Also set by law in 2014 was that metered taxis in Phuket were also entitled to charge an additional B100 surcharge in addition to the B50 for those taking a taxi from Phuket Airport.
The current GrabTaxi “surchage” hike also follows the demise of Uber in Phuket. In 2015, Uber was deemed no longer permitted to operate in Phuket, but continued to do so in other parts of the country, including Bangkok.
However, 2015 was the same year that the Malaysian-based “co-operative” GrabTaxi launched in Phuket complete with the Governor at the time openly promoting the service at official press conferences.
In March this year, Uber ceased operations in Thailand entirely under a “merger of resources” with ridesharing service Grab.
In a notice issued to registered members on Mar 26, the company noted, “Uber will be combining our operations with Grab to lead you in the next chapter of ridesharing in Thailand and across Southeast Asia.
“What this means for you: we will be transitioning our services over to the Grab platform by April 8, 2018, so all requests after that date should be made from the Grab app. However, you can still use the Uber app in more than 80 countries around the world.”