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Thai Law Insights

Taxi-Hailing Service Application - How Thai Laws Tackle Such Fast-Growing Technology

Apisit Rangpetch

Have you ever been refused by taxi drivers with responses such as "Out of gasoline.", "Traffic jam.", "Too far." when you need a ride? These empty and meaningless excuses can be frustrating.

In this "digital age", technology moves so fast sometimes that it is hard to keep pace. As the fruit of digital technology, applications for taxi-hailing service ("Service"), such as Uber, GrabTaxi, GoBike (for Motorcycle Taxi), etc., have been developed by using digital networks which act as intermediaries to connect passengers with willing drivers. Passengers can receive the Service by downloading an application to their smart phones. The passenger can hail a taxi by phone and the driver will go directly to the pick-up location and take the passenger to his or her chosen destination. The hassle of dealing with uncooperative taxi drivers is removed from the equation. The passenger saves time by not having to negotiate with just any driver who might be passing by. Payment can be made directly to the Service by using the application.

The relevant Thai laws covering metered taxi-cabs and motorcycle taxis are as follows:

  1. The Ministerial Regulations Re: Taxi Meter (Metered Taxis) issued by virtue of the Automobile Act of B.E. 2522 (1979)
  2. The Announcement of Ministry of Transport Governing Fares for Taxi Meter (Metered Taxis) issued by virtue of the Ministerial Regulations Re: Taxi Meter and the Automobile Act of B.E. 2522 (1979)
  3. The Ministerial Regulations Governing Fares for Motorbike Taxis of B.E. 2559 (2016) issued by virtue of the Automobile Act of B.E. 2522 (1979)
  4. The Announcement of Provincial Committee of Bangkok Governing Motorbike Station and Rules for Certificate Issuance of Motorcycle Taxi Registered in Bangkok B.E. 2559 (2016) issued by virtue of the Ministerial Regulations Re: Provincial Committee Establishment and Conditions Governing Public Motorcycle Taxi Registration of B.E. 2556 (2013) and the Automobile Act of B.E. 2522 (1979)

However, as is often the case in our digital age, technology moves faster than the law and the law has to catch up. The above regulations only govern transportation fares, motorcycle taxi stations and general qualifications for metered taxis.

At present, there is no specific law governing taxi-hailing services described above. Therefore, a license to provide this Service is not required. Per the news on the Department of Land Transport website dated 28 November 2014, this unlawful and uncontrolled application results in i)some taxi-hailing service providers recruiting unlicensed/unregistered drivers to provide transportation service, ii)unregistered vehicles being used by drivers in providing transportation service, iii)causing possible damage to passengers' future transactions when transportation fare is paid via credit card.

However, Ministerial Regulations Re: Taxi Meter (Metered Taxis) issued by virtue of the Automobile Act of B.E. 2522 (1979) stipulates that metered taxis in Bangkok must have and, metered taxis outside Bangkok may have, communication tools in accordance with the Radio Communications Law. Such communication tools include two-way radios (per the Regulation of Post and Telegraph Department Regarding Communication Networks for Taxis of B.E 2540 (1997) issued by virtue of the Radio Communications Act of B.E. 2498 (1955)) and, telephones (per the Announcement of the Department of Land Transport Re: Approval of Communication Tools for Individual's Taxi Meter registered in Bangkok B.E. 2557 (2014) issued by virtue of the Ministerial Regulations Re: Taxi Meter and the Automobile Act of B.E. 2522 (1979)).

According to these outdated regulations, one may infer that the only lawful way to hail a metered taxi would be to call the Taxi Radio Center (dispatcher). Then, the nearest taxi would be expected to go and pick up the passenger. This old fashioned method is just about as obsolete as phone booths on the sidewalk. The smart phone apps for hailing a taxi have already overtaken the old method of calling the dispatcher.

Isn't it about time for Thai legislators to legitimize these smart phone apps for better and safer taxi service and, to also benefit the drivers who use them? In parts of the United States, including California, Illinois and Colorado, taxi-hailing application service providers, generally known as Transportation Network Companies ("TNCs"), are required to obtain a license to provide such services. A license can only be issued to providers with adequate insurance. Wouldn't it be in everyone's best interest if this new way of hailing a taxi was completely legitimized and properly regulated in Thailand?