…𝘐𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘴𝘶𝘤𝘩 𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘨𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘰𝘯𝘭𝘺 𝘭𝘪𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘱𝘢𝘺 𝘢 𝘱𝘦𝘯𝘢𝘭𝘵𝘺 𝘰𝘧 20 𝘜𝘯𝘪𝘵𝘴 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘢𝘭𝘴𝘰 𝘰𝘣𝘭𝘪𝘨𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘳𝘦𝘧𝘶𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘦𝘹𝘤𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘧𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘤𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘦𝘥
By Phurpa Wangmo
In the capital, a growing number of commuters are expressing dissatisfaction with taxi drivers who allegedly charge excessive fares, particularly targeting new passengers. The issue has prompted commuters to share their experiences of being charged significantly more than the standard fare.
Tshering Pem from Trashigang recounted her recent encounter with a taxi driver who charged her Nu. 150 for a ride from lower Motithang to town. However, she later discovered that the standard fare for the same route was only Nu. 120. This incident highlights a trend among taxi drivers charging newcomers higher fares.
Chimi Dema from Bumthang narrated her experience of being consistently charged 150 ngultrum for trips between Changangkha and the hospital. However, after encountering a different female taxi driver who charged the standard Nu.120, she realized the potential exploitation, with the female driver suggesting that the previous charges might have been unjustified.
Several commuters, particularly those who are illiterate, expressed the difficulty of reporting such incidents to the Bhutan Construction and Transport Authority (BCTA). They claim that taxi drivers exploit their lack of literacy, charging higher fares without fear of repercussions.
An official from the Bhutan Construction and Transport Authority emphasized that taxi drivers are strictly prohibited from charging more than the fixed fare rates determined by the authority. Commuters are encouraged to report instances of excessive charges to the BCTA.
The official stressed the necessity for public support in addressing the issue, stating, “We rely on the cooperation of the public as we have a designated individual responsible for addressing complaints related to excessive fares.” They can write to us at any time if they are charged extra fares.” Additionally, the BCTA stressed the importance of commuters providing sufficient evidence, such as the vehicle’s registration number and proof of fare charges, to facilitate investigations.
Leki Wangmo, a public transport commuter said, “Considering the availability of city buses, I rarely opt for taxis. As a result, I am familiar with only a few fixed fare rates for specific routes. I have encountered instances where taxi drivers charge both higher and lower fares than the standard rates.
“On one occasion, when sharing a ride from town to Taba, I was charged Nu. 200. Conversely, during another journey from Taba to upper Motithang, which is typically a local route, the taxi driver charged me only Nu 140, while most drivers charge Nu. 180 or even Nu. 200 at times. This has left me perplexed, as I am uncertain whether these drivers genuinely lack knowledge about the exact fare or if they are simply taking advantage of unsuspecting passengers,” she said.
Leki Wangmo’s experiences shed light on the inconsistent fare practices among taxi drivers, raising concerns about whether the discrepancies are due to a lack of awareness or deliberate exploitation of passengers who may not be familiar with the standard rates.
Karma Tshering said, “Sometimes, I feel that taxi drivers are not aware of rates for different routes and randomly charge at their whims. The authorities should test them, or perhaps, make them aware of existing rates for different routes and also explain the repercussions of excessive charging. In that way, we commuters can travel without the fear of being overcharged and also have confidence and trust in those taxi drivers.”
The BCTA reported that, to date, they have received five complaints from passengers regarding the charging of excess fares in a year. In response to these grievances, the BCTA promptly refunded the affected passengers the excess amounts they had been charged.
The BCTA official underlined that in cases where a taxi driver is proven guilty of overcharging, it is mandatory for them to reimburse the excess amount to the customer. According to the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) regulations 2021, taxi drivers or owners are strictly prohibited from charging fares exceeding those prescribed by the Authority. In the event of such overcharging, they are not only liable to pay a penalty of 20 Units but are also obligated to refund the excess fare collected.
This proactive measure is implemented with the primary goal of discouraging unfair practices. By enforcing these regulations, the authorities aim to establish and maintain a just and regulated public transportation system that benefits all commuters in Bhutan.