42. Non-metered Sydney Taxis

The other night, I needed to catch a taxi home from the station because I had a late coding class. It was around 9 PM, and heavy rain was expected. To stay safe, I decided against taking the usual bus ride since I have a 20-minute walk from the final stop to home. When I need a cab, I usually choose Uber because it’s slightly cheaper and more convenient, with automatic payments and well-maintained cars. Plus, I avoid the hassle of negotiating meter usage with the driver.

In Australia, it’s illegal for taxi drivers to quote prices for a trip instead of using the meter. There’s a hefty $1000 fine if they’re caught. Here is a list of the obligations a cab driver needs to abide by: https://www.pointtopoint.nsw.gov.au/become-a-driver/driver-obligations

Over the past year, I’ve encountered drivers who refuse to use the meter, which has become frustrating. Despite this, I often resort to taxis because they’re readily available outside the station, sparing me a 5-10 minute wait for an Uber, especially late at night.

That night was no exception. A long line of taxis awaited, and I was eager to get home quickly. Once seated in the back, the driver pulled away, coinciding with the start of a torrential downpour. Glancing at the dashboard, I noticed the meter was off, contrary to the usual illuminated display showing the fare. I searched left and right of the dashboard to check if it was placed elsewhere, but found nothing. All I could see was the taxi’s dashboard on the right side of the steering wheel and a phone displaying the route to my home.

I knew what was happening.

Sorry for asking but why isn’t the meter on?” I inquired politely.

Oh, I’ll just charge you only $20 for this trip,” the driver responded.

Unconvinced, I stated, “You should use the meter. My trip usually costs $16-17.

The driver countered, “No, it’s not that low. I haven’t heard of that.”

Insisting and again politely, I said, “Let’s use the meter to determine the exact price. That will be fair for both of us.

Reluctantly, he agreed, “Fine, I’ll charge you $17 this time.”

He then vented about losing money and lack of return trips, displaying some irritation.

Not wanting a confrontation late at night and being just 5 minutes away from home with heavy rain outside, I conceded to the non-metered fare. Despite getting the correct price, I felt dissatisfied.

For me, it’s simple: taxi drivers should use the meter to charge customers. Why aren’t they doing so? Are they pocketing extra cash without sharing with the cab owner or avoiding taxes?

I intend to report this widespread behaviour to the Point to Point Transport Commissioner’s 24-hour Taxi Fare Hotline – 1800 500 410 (https://www.nswtaxi.org.au/complaints-feedback).

However, I wonder about the effectiveness of such complaints. How can they track every driver?

We truly need a solution akin to ride-sharing platforms like Uber: payment through an app. This eliminates any chance of fare manipulation by the driver. I’m puzzled why such a system isn’t already in place!

Here are some stories of other people facing the same issue of price fixing in taxis:


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