Almost every city in the United Kingdom suffers from touting, or illegal taxi drivers, but it is not just the UK that suffers from this problem. Japan, the last place you would expect to find such activities, also has a massive problem with touts.
The difference in Japan, though, is that most legal taxi drivers are employed by companies, so are not self-employed free-lance drivers such as those in London. These drivers earn commission from the rides that they do in a shift. It is the taxi companies that earn the real money, to such an extent that many legal taxi drivers tout after their shift to supplement their income.
The only comparison I can make to this is: If a company such as Addison Lee had the sort of hold on the industry in London that these taxi company bosses have in Japan, a very similar scenario could be envisaged here, after all, touting is a massive problem. Thankfully, we are not there quite yet, but things are getting worse by the day! London can still boast the "Best taxi service in the World", but for how long?
"The dangers of the illegal taxi drivers"
Japanese taxi drivers have been receiving a lot of attention of late. Various policy changes such as an “inside the taxi smoking ban,” rising fuel prices and therefore rising taxi fares, and deregulation of the control of supply-demand balance, has meant that taxi companies are facing challenges to maintain profitability and as an effect, taxi drivers have suffered.
An investigative mini-documentary on channel 4 this morning exposed the side-affects of the recent taxi industry modifications. A rise in the number of illegal taxis in Japan has meant that there is not only danger to the public but legitimate taxi drivers are facing even further competition in the already harsh environment. These illegal drivers are called “shiro-taku,” Shiro for white and taku, a shortened work for takushii (taxi). The cars are generally white with white number plates (real taxi drivers have green number plates and queue in the taxi ranks) and these criminal taxi drivers poach customers by walking the streets, finding often drunk customers and offering cheaper fares and the option of smoking in the cars. Due to the illegality of this “business,” the cars and therefore the customers are uninsured should there be an accident which is likely as a majority of these drivers also have awful driving habits. Ironically, several of these drivers are legitimate taxi drivers during the day, trying to make money on the side to supplement their income.
(Note; this is where the Addison Lee scenario is most relevant. Ed, MickTheCabby)
This mini-documentary interviewed taxi drivers, illegal taxi drivers and customers. The illegal taxi drivers think they are offering a service that customers want and in a dog-eat-dog world, the effect on legitimate taxi drivers is kept out of mind. The risk-taking customers go for the cheaper option and the now-luxury of being able to smoke in the cars and the only ones that end up losing-out seem to be the real taxi-drivers. Will more and more legitimate taxi drivers turn to illegality to supplement their income, therefore creating a vicious circle of under-cutting, over-supplying and excessive competition? Should this problem persist and expand, the authorities are likely to step in and clamp-down, yet it should be considered that the base of the problem may not be the illegality of it but the difficulties taxi drivers face due to de-regulation and policy amendments.
The above article by Anna Kitanaka was reproduced by kind permission of J@pan.Inc
See the original article here; http://www.japaninc.com/node/2899