Travel Trouble

Joanita Wibowo

Tourists charged $930 for 5-minute cab ride

Tourists charged $930 for 5-minute cab ride

tourist couple has been charged $930 for a five-minute cab ride in Wellington.

Scottish travellers John and Susan Barrett was travelling in the New Zealand capital on January 21 when they decided to take a taxi outside Wellington railway station.

John Barrett told Stuff.co.nz that “there was nothing at the time that made us think anything was wrong”, citing the driver’s displayed photo ID and the sign “Wellington” on the roof.

After the five-minute trip that covered approximately 500 metres, they said the meter reader was under $10, but the eftpos machine was covered by the driver’s hand.

Later that day Barrett was shocked to find his Mastercard Travelex card rejected at a supermarket. When he checked his transactions, there was a charge of $930 for “Taxi Wellington”.

Barrett contacted a number of cab operators but was unable to identify the taxi he was riding in.

However, Barrett successfully received a refund from the driver who claimed the overcharge was an honest mistake due to a misplaced digit.

The refund was coordinated by Hassan Mohamed of Wellington Taxi, a company that rents eftpos machines to independent taxi drivers.

Mohamed said the driver was using a cab that does not operate under any company. 

“Every taxi is now independent,” said Mohamed. “Wellington has 1,000 different small companies.”

Mohamed said he refunded Barrett via a PayPal account with an added $50 as a compensation for the inconvenience.

Taxi Federation executive director John Hart said Barrett’s case was the worst out of the many overcharging disputes involving independent drivers. 

“We're receiving complaints every day,” said Hart. “Barrett has been very lucky to get his money back in this case.”

Hart said deregulation of the taxi industry in New Zealand allowed any person with a licence to become a taxi driver and made it difficult to track down independent operators.

“These [overcharging cases] 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.”

Have you ever been overcharged for a taxi ride? Share your story in the comments.