Last week, Viet Nam News asked readers their comments on Uber taxi, which launched recently in Ha Noi and HCM City. With this smart-phone application, passengers can select a car, pickup location and the route is tracked via GPS. The fare is often lower than normal taxi companies.
Some people, however, are concerned that this will create unfair competition for other taxi companies and also whether passengers' safety and privacy can be ensured.
Here are some responses.
Victor Lavrenko, Russian, Ha Noi
When Uber enters cities, quite often taxi companies protest and regulators are more willing to support local companies.
Supporting local businesses is normal and one of the purposes of regulators in any country. The problem is that very often taxi companies do not deserve this support as their business practices are not all that good – I don't mean only in Viet Nam, it happens in many countries.
Often taxis deliberately take further routes. Sometimes taximeters count more miles than actually traveled; some even have a switch to turn this feature off if a client notices that taximeter is skewed, making complaining even harder. Taxis also rarely return lost items. I personally had such an experience with a local Vietnamese taxi.
These practices are not really good for countries trying to develop tourism. Uber solves this problem by tracking routes via GPS, so that whenever a driver takes a further route, a client may request the fare review. Cheating with taximeter is therefore not possible. Since drivers are rated by customers, they tend to return lost items. I personally lost an item once and the Uber driver returned it to me.
So if regulators want to support local companies, first they have to do it the Singaporean way – instill very strict rules against cheating drivers, demand that taxi companies develop or use certified software that tracks routes via GPS, etc.
Then, after the quality of service is similar, I think very little regulation is needed to make the competition fair. For example the waiting time for Uber is much longer than catching taxis on the streets.
John Haywood, British, Ha Noi
Uber has been available in HCM City for quite a while now and has recently arrived in my home city of Ha Noi.
I have read a number of articles in international newspapers that state Uber is much cheaper than existing taxi services and that taxi drivers have had to change careers because they simply cannot compete with Uber.
Uber drivers can offer competitive prices because they are not regulated and are not subject to the stringent controls that apply to taxi drivers in most of the western world.
In the United Kingdom, for example, vehicles used for public transport and taxis must have an annual road worthiness test (this test is much more stringent than for a privately owned motor vehicle).
The taxi driver must have an annual criminal record check. In addition, taxi companies must have insurance to cover the loss or damage of passengers' belongings as well as insurance to cover medical costs and compensation should passengers get injured in an accident.
If none of the above apply to Viet Nam's taxi drivers then it seems like it might be a fair playing field, but I won't be using Uber myself. One thing that does cause me immediate concern is that this might encourage more cars onto the streets of Ha Noi, whose roads are already at maximum capacity.
Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi
Cities in Canada keep a tight, limited and expensive monopoly on taxi licences. Uber's high-tech run-around this monolith is a win-win for consumers and "freelance" drivers with a little extra time on their hands. Most cars sit idle all day while the owner is at work. Monthly parking stalls cost several hundred dollars.
Why not put it to good use? Uber is just another logical evolutionary step from the use of car pools or borrowing friend's car for shopping or moving on the weekend. I anticipate a few lawsuits with governments responding by introducing mandatory insurance.
Most cities aren't like London with a strict exam and tight regulation. Once the cat is out of the bag, it's hard to go back. I will use Uber just like I sneak up to the arrivals gate at the airport and grab the just-dropping-off taxi. Sneaky is the new smart.
Nguyen Thu Ha, Vietnamese, Da Nang
I have never tried Uber but I was told that the waiting period can be long. When I grab a taxi I'm usually in a hurry, so it's difficult if the waiting time is long.
I think it's too early to judge since Uber and other applications such as GrabTaxi and EasyTaxi are quite new in Viet Nam and are probably suitable only for the tech-savvy. I think it will take quite a while before the service takes off in Viet Nam.
I support fair competition but there are better ways to protect passengers' safety and verify drivers' information than just including their photos. The Government should allow Uber to be on the market, but Viet Nam could impose a little bit of regulation.
Uber could help raise the standard of taxi services in Viet Nam, because they strive for positive customer reviews. Any rider who experiences bad services can now turn to social media.
However, as a last thought, if Uber thrives, there will be more people using cars for transportation. But look at how congested our roads already are! — VNS