Cap surge-pricing charges for ride-hail operators

Cars and vehicles on the PIE near Bedok Reservoir Road.
Cars and vehicles on the PIE near Bedok Reservoir Road.PHOTO: ST FILE

With the passage of the Point-to-Point Passenger Transport Industry Bill last week, the transport industry as well as consumers are looking forward to a healthier public transport landscape that benefits all stakeholders (Licensing regime tightens reins on private-hire firms, Aug 7).

For fare-related matters, the Public Transport Council (PTC) will oversee things to ensure that rates are posted upfront.

The problem lies with independent fare setting by licensed ride-hailing operators. It seems ridiculous for them to be charging surge pricing at several times that of regular fares (Look into the black box of AI behind surge pricing, Aug 12). To prevent overcharging, the PTC should make ride-hail operators adhere to a fare structure stipulated by the PTC, or impose a maximum cap of, for example, 30 per cent over regular fares.

If left unchecked, commuters will be subject to the dynamic pricing of these operators. This will be detrimental to commuters as the service providers can use big data and artificial intelligence to exploit discriminatory pricing to their advantage.

When Uber and Grab co-existed in Singapore, commuters benefited immensely from their competition. But that changed when Uber pulled out. It did not change much with the entrance of Gojek. This market imbalance will continue to erode commuter benefits until such time enough service providers come into the market to level the playing field. And till that happens, the Land Transport Authority and the PTC need to be the guardians of commuter interests.

Ee Teck Siew

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2019, with the headline 'Cap surge-pricing charges for ride-hail operators'. Print Edition | Subscribe