City plans to increase inspections of taxis

The protest slowing traffic to the airport has raised anger at City Hall

City Hall will be retaliating against taxi drivers. About 1,200 taxis participated in a 15 kilometer per hour drive to the Václav Havel Airport Prague on Monday, Oct. 2, in a protest that stalled traffic. The drivers are complaining about competition from Uber, an app-based car service.

The protest was organized by the Association of Czech Taxi Drivers (SČT). The taxis drove slowly on Evropská, Plzeňská and Lipská streets to a hotel near the airport and turned around to repeat the action several times. The SČT says further protests are planned.

City Hall on Wednesday will start a series of inspections of taxis to look for overcharging and other violations.

Monday's protest has angered both politicians and the public. “The inspections of the drivers who drive people across Prague will be tightened as of tomorrow. This is made possible by an amendment to the Road Act, which takes effect Oct. 4,” City Councilor Patrik Nacher (ANO) said, according to daily Pražský deník.

The fine for dishonest drivers will increase from Kč 50,000 to Kč 100,000. The rules for losing licenses has also been made tougher. City or state police and city officials can carry out inspections.

According to Mayor Adriana Krnáčová (ANO), the legal position of Uber can only be established by the government or the Ministry of Industry and Trade. The city is powerless in the situation. A government working group on Thursday is due to discuss a change to the law that would allow mobile applications and a classical taximeter to be considered equal under the law.

Prague Deputy Mayor Petr Dolínek (ČSSD) yesterday proposed on social networks that taximeters could replace smart mobile applications and be obligatory both for taxi drivers and for Uber drivers.

Not all taxi drivers agree with the protests. One driver named Honza told Pražský deník said the protests were counterproductive and hurt taxi drivers.

City Councilor Libor Hadrava (ANO) said the protest was recklessness and for example could block ambulances on the way to hospitals.

Taxi drivers have long had a bad reputation in Prague. The issue of taxis overcharging people goes back for decades, and many City Hall administrations have tried to tackle the issue. In April this year signs were put up near popular tourist spots to warn people against taking standing cabs and informing people of the proper rates. One sign warned that taxi drivers often charge more than 10 times the official rate, making it one of the highest in Europe.

In 2015, the Czech News Agency reported that one in three taxi drivers overcharged, based on spot checks made by city inspectors.

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