Taxi fares will spike by more than 100%, but 'no formal complaint yet'
The Competition Commission on Monday said it had not received any formal complaint about an expected taxi fare hike in Johannesburg.
This after the Alexandra Taxi Association (Ata) and the Alexandra, Randburg, Midrand, Sandton Taxi Association (Armsta) said they would be increasing their fares by more than 100% because they had been operating at a loss since the start of the lockdown.
Current regulations only permit minibus taxis to carry 70% of their capacity. The proposed taxi fares will see commuters pay at least R30 on a trip which currently costs R11 .
Gauteng transport MEC Jacob Mamabolo said the announcement by the taxi associations came as a shock.
“The announcement was definitely unexpected, it actually came as a surprise that under conditions of Covid-19 and with the complexities and challenges that it brings, particularly, the financial burden has now been shifted to the commuter, that in itself, should not be the way,” he said.
Mamabolo slammed the decision and said: “The matter should have been placed on the table for consideration and discussions.”
Meanwhile, transport minister Fikile Mbalula said he had noted the increases with concern after outcry from commuters.
Department spokesperson Ayanda Allie Paine said the ministry was aware of the challenges faced by the taxi industry as a result of the regulations to curb the spread of Covid-19.
She said while adjustments may be necessary for the industry’s survival, operators were urged to be mindful of the poor when deciding on the fares, especially in light of the financial relief the government was finalising to assist the industry.
Mbalula threatened to lay a complaint with the Competition Commission if operators went ahead with the huge hike in fares.
“The minister wishes to remind the industry that current regulations prevent illegal profiteering, as a result, minister Mbalula is enjoined by the regulations to refer the matter to the Competition Commission to assess if the fare increases are fair and justifiable,” said Allie Paine.
The commission's acting head of communications Siyabulela Makunga said no formal complaint had been received, but the commission was ready should one be lodged.
Makunga said anyone was entitled to lay a complaint, which would be subject to investigation.
Mbalula said the pricing should take into consideration the poor.
“We are aware that some taxis have not been operating for some time now and that those which have been operating have been doing so at a limited capacity. We understand that there may be a need for fare increases but those increases must be fair, the industry must take into consideration the plight of the poor and the working class, who form the majority of their customers. Anything outside of that fairness is illegality”, said Mbalula.
The DA's Fred Nel also weighed in on the proposed fares, which were expected to kick in next week Monday.
“Increasing the taxi fare because of the slight increase in petrol does not hold water because despite the increase last week the price of petrol is still cheaper than it was before the lockdown,” he said.
He urged Mamabolo to intervene urgently.
“We cannot allow the exploitation of commuters who are solely dependent on public transport on a daily basis,” he said.