Hong Kong taxi driver cleared over 8 cent overcharge

HONG KONG (AFP) - A taxi driver who endured a six-month lawsuit after overcharging a passenger by six US cents has finally had his name cleared by a Hong Kong court.

Mr Tam Hoi-Chi walked free after his case was thrown out Thursday but was left questioning the city's justice system.

"I want to know why the opposite side, for the reason of this small amount, would want to sue me," Mr Tam, 57, told reporters outside the court afterwards.

"It's really not just. Why did I have to waste so much time? I have to make a living," he said.

He stood accused of "taxi overcharge" according to the Hong Kong judiciary's website. The case was brought to court even though rounding up to the nearest dollar is a common practice amongst the city's taxi drivers.

Mr Tam had overcharged a female passenger HK$0.50 (S$0.08) on a HK$136.5 fare, local newspaper South China Morning Post reported.

She had handed over HK$200 at the end of the journey last October and received HK$63 in change, but did not immediately ask for the 50 cents. She later made a complaint to the police, the Post said.

Prosecutors offered no evidence to the court after they reviewed the case and witness statements, according to the newspaper.

"Given the trivial nature... it was considered not appropriate to proceed with it," the city's Department of Justice told the Post, saying that it had not been consulted before the charge was laid.

"This wastes Hong Kong people's money, and it wastes government money, and wastes time,"

Hong Kong Taxi and Public Light Bus Association chairman Wong Chung-keung told AFP, adding that he's never seen this happen to his drivers before.

It was not immediately clear how much the case had cost the Hong Kong taxpayer.

Taxi drivers have recently been in the firing line for overcharging and cheating tourists and have received fines, community service and bans on taxi driving as punishment.

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