The efforts of taxi drivers are unlikely to gain much sympathy in the court of public opinion, but in a legal sense, the outcome is much less certain.
Grabcar Sdn Bhd, colloquially known as Grab, is being sued for RM100 million by the Malaysian Association of Taxi, Rental Car, Limousine and Airport Taxi. In the lawsuit, the plaintiff alleges Grabcar denied its 10,000 members their usual livelihood and, through its e-hailing platform, created an unfair and purportedly illegal competition.
The suit, brought by 15 office bearers of the association, was filed through Messrs R Kengadharan & Co at the High Court in early December, and a copy of the complaint was recently made available to the Malaysian press.
In the suit, the plaintiffs claim that the defendant, Grabcar Sdn Bhd, engaged in activities of operating a e-hailing service without any valid licence in Malaysia between 2014 and 2017, which, the suit proclaims, amounted to “stealing their business.”
E-hailing was rapidly and enthusiastically embraced in Kuala Lumpur, then in other Malaysian cities, owing in no small part to the well-documented unsavoury practices in which far too many taxi drivers engaged. Travel message boards were rife with complaints about KL’s cabbies refusing to use the meter, overcharging, demanding extortionate payments for late-night rides, denying service during rainstorms, being rude and hostile, taking “scenic routes” to drive up the fare, and more.
Malaysian residents complained almost as much as visitors, and KL’s taxi drivers were on more than one occasion named the worst in Asia. Lonely Planet and a UK-based taxi rating site, among others, went even further: worst in the world. Yes, cabbies in Malaysia were infamous on a global scale.
From The Star:
Popular website Tripadvisor also warns travellers about KL’s errant taxi drivers who “refuse to use the meter, quoting a fare often with the view of ripping you off.”
“This quoted fare is generally akin to daylight robbery, and sometimes when haggling takes place, it is reciprocated with rude gestures or abusive language …” adds Tripadvisor.
On Virtualtourist.com, a visitor posted: “I have travelled the world and from Bombay to Boston I can tell you the taxi drivers in KL are the biggest pack of thieving lying dirtbags you will ever come across.”
Another responded: “Agreed! They are notorious and globally infamous for fleecing customers!”“KL cabbies living up to ‘worst taxi drivers in the world’ reputation” — The Star, October 7, 2012
Taking into account this worldwide reputation, often affirmed and echoed by locals, it seems exceedingly unlikely that the general public will shed many tears over the plight suffered by these same taxi drivers half a decade ago.
However, given that e-hailing services actually did technically operate outside the legitimacy of and licensure by the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) from 2014 to 2017, the decision that a court may render is far from certain. (The SPAD was redesignated as the Land Public Transport Agency (APAD) in 2019.)
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs charged that Grabcar’s activities were in violation of the Federal Constitution, the Competition Act 2010, and the amended 2012 Road Transport Act, adding that the defendant had breached provisions of the Transport Act by presenting a misleading statement that had the right to operate an online-based public transport service without approval from the Road Transport Department.
The plaintiffs further said Grab’s e-hailing service was not given any exemption under the Competition Act to carry out the service during May 16, 2014 and July 27, 2017, the dates specific to the complaint.
Given that it is now approaching seven years since the commencement of the alleged infraction, it is unclear why the plaintiffs waited so long before bringing the lawsuit.
Grabcar Sdn Bhd have been directed to file any reply to the suit by January 28, 2021.
While the results of upcoming court proceedings are still a mystery, the sentiment of the public towards Malaysia’s taxi drivers was easily surmised by a quick glance at social media…
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