New Zealand's taxi industry was deregulated in 2017. Picture: iStock
New Zealand's taxi industry was deregulated in 2017. Picture: iStock

Tourist’s $887 taxi bill shock

A TOURIST in New Zealand has been left reeling after he was charged an eye-watering $887 for a five-minute cab ride in Wellington.

And it seems he may have been seriously stiffed by a dodgy operator, as he's unable to track down the driver or company who overcharged him.

Scottish tourist John Barrett and his wife arrived in the New Zealand capital by bus on January 21 and hopped in the first taxi lined up outside Wellington railway station.

Mr Barrett told stuff.co.nz the white cab had "Wellington" on the roof sign and the driver had the usual photo ID, and "there was nothing at the time that made us think anything was wrong".

The Barretts were driven to their accommodation on Johnson St - a mere 500m and five minutes away.

 

The credit card charge wasn’t consistent with the amount on the meter. (File image.) Picture: Liam Kidston
The credit card charge wasn’t consistent with the amount on the meter. (File image.) Picture: Liam Kidston

 

The meter reader said the cost of the trip was less than $10, but Mr Barrett said the driver's hand had obscured the total charge on the eftpos machine. He wasn't given a receipt either.

It was the next day when Mr Barrett's travel MasterCard was declined at a supermarket and he checked his transactions he realised he'd been charged $NZ930 - about $AU887 - by "Taxi Wellington".

Mr Barrett has been trying to track down company the taxi driver worked for with no luck. Companies he contacted said that cab was not part of their fleet.

His bank's disputes team is handling the matter and Mr Barrett has contacted the local Transport Agency, Wellington City Council and New Zealand's Taxi Federation.

"I honestly don't know what else to do," Mr Barrett said.

"I'm in a complete loop I cannot break out of because I cannot get the contact details for this taxi company."

 

The Scottish couple hopped in the taxi waiting outside Wellington railway station. Picture: Wikimedia Commons
The Scottish couple hopped in the taxi waiting outside Wellington railway station. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

 

A taxi driver from Wellington Amalgamated Taxis told stuff.co.nz several drivers were operating as independents in the city using old signs by a now-defunct taxi company.

Taxi Federation executive director John Hart said the deregulation of New Zealand's taxi industry in 2017 meant it was hard to track down independent operators.

He said the federation received at least one complaint every week about people being overcharged.

"We've had many other instances of this sort of thing but none at this level," he told stuff.co.nz.

"These are the ones we're hearing of, but I think there are probably a whole lot more, and the concern would be that visitors from overseas are being ripped off."

He said the new legislation meant the "transport agency doesn't have any responsibility" for overcharged complaints like Mr Barrett's.

 

New Zealand's taxi industry was deregulated in 2017. Picture: iStock
New Zealand's taxi industry was deregulated in 2017. Picture: iStock

The incident comes two months after a couple in Paris were allegedly scammed by a rogue taxi operator who tried to charge them almost five times the real cost of a taxi ride - and then got angry when they refused.

The couple, from Thailand, filmed the incident in which a taxi driver tried to charge them €247 ($AU385) for a 45km ride from Charles de Gaulle Airport to the city centre.

Official Paris cabs charge a flat rate from the airport of €50 ($AU78) to anywhere on the Right Bank of Paris and €55 ($AU86) to anywhere on the Left Bank under strict new rules.

 

The driver in Paris shows the Thai tourists the fee, in euros, on an app on his phone. Picture: Charkrid Th.
The driver in Paris shows the Thai tourists the fee, in euros, on an app on his phone. Picture: Charkrid Th.

 

But in the video, which was uploaded to YouTube, the driver angrily insists his €247 fee is correct and argues with the couple after they challenge it. The meter appears to be an app on the driver's phone.

The couple eventually agreed to a compromise price of €200 ($AU311) so they could finally get out of the cab.

They said they wanted their experience to be "a case study for other Thai people or travellers to be conscious (of) while they are travelling".


The Vikings know how to make the most of winter fashion

The Vikings know how to make the most of winter fashion

There's not much time to indulge in some winter fashion in Lismore

Here's to the next 25 years of light and friendship

Here's to the next 25 years of light and friendship

Lismore attracts thousands to its lantern and friendship festival

25th Lantern Parade is show of pride for city of Lismore

25th Lantern Parade is show of pride for city of Lismore

Lantern Parade is bigger and better than ever