News flash! The City Council has now posted a revised version of proposed pedicab pricing legislation. Read this post for more information.
Price-gouging by pedicab drivers made news recently, when driver Savas Avci charged a family of four $442.54 to go from 42nd & 7th to 55th near 6th. (See this post from October 2010 for an eyewitness account of a pedicab rip-off that seems like a bargain, compared to Avci’s heist.) Now the City Council’s Committee on Consumer Affairs, led by Council Member Dan Garodnick, is working on legislation aimed at preventing New York City pedicab drivers from overcharging.
If you’re a pedicab geek, you can read the proposed amendments to the pedicab law here. If you’re a pedicab super-geek, you can testify at (or just attend) the Committee’s hearing on the proposed legislation next Thursday, October 18th, 2012 at 1:00 p.m. in the 16th Floor Committee Room, 250 Broadway.
The Committee’s strategy to address over-charging, as presented in the legislation text, involves limiting the number of ways in which pedicab fares can be calculated and making it easier for passengers who get receipts to track down, and complain about, drivers who overcharge. The amended legislation would require drivers to charge by time (measured by a timer) or distance (measured by an odometer), or to give a receipt for the full fare before the ride starts (this is weird – since when do vendors give receipts before getting paid?). Currently, drivers may calculate fares on any basis they choose, so long as that basis appears on their rate cards. The legislation would also require receipts given for pedicab fares to indicate how the fare was calculated and to make clear that pedicabs operate under the aegis of the Department of Consumer Affairs.
Can this strategy work?
First, let’s look at the receipt tactic. Most pedicab passengers neither receive a receipt nor know that by law they’re entitled to one. Most cops don’t know this either. There’s little to stop a scammer from charging whatever he pleases, bullying his passengers into paying it, and driving away without a trace.
Second, let’s look at the revised requirements for calculating fares.
Currently, most NYC pedicabs display rate cards indicating per-block/per-avenue pricing. For example: “$1 per block, $3 per avenue, $5 minimum charge. All rates are per person.” However, most passengers who get scammed don’t read the rate card until it’s too late. The driver points to the sign, implying that he’s charging a standard rate; the passengers get in; at the end of the ride, the driver asks for his triple-digit fare; if the passengers protest, he reads aloud his sign’s tiny print. Savas Avci’s sign, apparently, mentioned a $100-per-person minimum.
The new legislation includes no provision to stop a scammer from displaying a rate card that says, “$5 per person per minute,” or “$100 per person per mile,” then proceeding with business as usual. A driver with neither a timer nor an odometer in his pedicab might be required by law to issue a receipt quoting the full fare before the ride starts – but how will that help passengers facing a hefty charge at the end of a ride unless by some miracle they happen to know this? The only people who actually do know this are the pedicab geeks and super-geeks – who are not the target market for scammers looking to make $400 on a ten-minute pedicab ride.