At last, law against bus touts

At last, law against bus touts

Like private car owners and taxi drivers, bus drivers will soon be governed by anti-touting laws.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced yesterday that from Jan 1, bus drivers caught touting for passengers face a fine of up to $1,000 or a jail term of up to three months.

The Straits Times understands the move follows complaints from the public as well as the transport industry. "The new regulations will serve as a strong deterrent... and support LTA's continued effort in protecting consumers from uninvited commercial solicitation," the LTA said.

Currently, there is no explicit law governing touting by bus drivers, although such laws have existed for private car owners and taxi drivers for years.

The news caught some industry players by surprise. Woodlands Transport general manager Roger Wong said: "I thought it has always been illegal to tout."

He said touts are often drivers of smaller buses. "It's usually the 10-seaters, operating at the airport and ferry terminals," he said. "It's hard to tout for passengers to fill a 40-seat bus."

Mr Wong said touting is undesirable because "there is a tendency to overcharge". "And when there are complaints, there is no clear recourse," he said.

Mr V. Anilan, managing director of local operator Bus Hub, said of the new regulations: "It's a long time coming. We've been complaining to the authorities. We work very hard for our licences to operate in certain areas, and these guys just come in for a free ride."

He said touts in 10- and 13-seater buses are common in tourist spots and "they (also) peddle tickets to tourist attractions, which they bought in bulk".

"It's quite rampant," he added.

Industry watchers said the new regulations' effectiveness depends largely on how well the law is enforced. Taxi drivers are not allowed to tout, but it is not uncommon to see cabbies touting in tourist spots or at major events like ZoukOut.

Taxi operators have also related instances of private car owners with stickers of so-called "taxi app" firms pulling up by the kerbside. LTA is working on introducing regulations for these apps, even as more cities are curbing or banning them.

christan@sph.com.sg

This article was first published on Dec 16, 2014.
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