Complaints are mounting on Chinese social media about taxi-hailing mobile apps. Weibo users say it’s becoming harder and harder to get a cab with the apps, mostly because app companies have stopped subsidizing cab drivers to take passengers on difficult routes or during peak hours.
Last year, a months-long heated battle emerged between China’s two top taxi-hailing apps as they fought for market share by offering cash rewards for drivers and passengers who booked via their apps. That resulted in massively discounted rides on the consumer’s side and massively higher net fares on the driver’s side.
But the bonus seems to have weakened as the two rivals announced a “merger” in February. The combined company was estimated to be worth around $6 billion. The two gave no details on how they are defining the merger, and they seem to have a high degree of de facto independence.
Although the two companies said they will continue subsidizing the taxi-hiring service last month, taxi drivers say they don’t get big bonuses from taxi app companies any more.
Posting a weibo around 11pm on Wednesday, a user living in Beijing named funnyshigehaopinzhi said, “It’s annoying that I finished work late and can’t get a taxi through these mobile apps.”
Another user, named Liwangniki, who lives in south China’s Gangzhou city said, “It’s become harder to get a cab after Didi and Kuaidi [two big mobile app companies in China] merged. I’m gonna abandon these apps.”
“I waited half an hour to get a cab on Didi [taxi] mobile app last night, and waited 15 minutes this morning again. I find cab drivers will take the booking request only after mobile app companies give them subsidies. Otherwise, I have to offer a tip to drivers to motivate them to be booked,” @Renee_Jan, who lives in Shanghai, complained.
Ye Yun, the PR director of Didi, said they have noticed the complaints from both customers and cab drivers, but the subsidy is only a marketing tactic.
“We are working on the issue through big data analysis. Some passengers will get bigger discounts than others, and drivers will get more if they're willing to accept difficult routes,” Ye Yun said.
Fu Weigang, executive president of Shanghai Institute of Finance and Law, says it is only one of the problems in the taxi mobile app business and it reflects a deep issue of the lack of regulation.