The number of customer complaints about Karwa taxi drivers regarding refused journeys and unmetered charges at popular taxi stands across Doha are on the rise, according to a report in today’s Qatar Tribune.
Citing an anonymous Mowasalat employee, the newspaper states that the company is logging some 20 complaints a day on weekends, and 10 per weekday. The report doesn’t include previous complaint rates, but states that these numbers represent a significant increase for the government-owned cab firm.
No specific stands were named and shamed, but the Tribune lists the company’s main ranks to catch a taxi as City Center Mall, Lulu Hypermarket, Al Asmakh Mall (Centrepoint) and Hyatt Plaza.
According to the employee, the most common complaints included “overpriced rates and unmetered charges, as well as a refusal to take customers to certain locations or taking more than one client and fully charging each.”
The staff member goes on to explain why some drivers refuse to accept a fare:
“It is either because they will have to drive through a congested route to reach the destination, or because the trip is too short to make a certain amount of profit.”
Speaking to Doha News, an official from Mowasalat explained the complaint process: Customers can lodge their complaints in person (at the taxi stand), or on the phone.
Following this, a report would be sent to management, who may see fit to write a written warning or issue a fine, which will be deducted from the driver’s salary. The Tribune reports that this is usually no higher than QR150.
Earlier this year, journalist Jessica Davey-Quantick explained in a guest post why taxi drivers here may be motivated to be dishonest. She argued that the drivers in Qatar aren’t malicious, but merely desperate to make enough money to pay for the daily cost of their cars, which many of them have to rent from their companies.
Although some drivers earn a salary of around QR250 a day, most work on commission, and have to pay Mowasalat to rent their cars, Quantick found. The company also expects many to meet a daily quota of QR450. She writes:
“In order to make QR450 a day, they’d have to make QR41 per hour. An analysis of taxi receipts shows that the average taxi fare in Qatar is QR20, with each trip taking approximately 30 minutes. To reach the company’s estimated daily earnings, they would have to have one trip every half hour for their entire 11-hour shift, with no breaks and no lulls between passengers, lower fares, or longer trips.”
Taxi fleet expansion
The city’s many taxi customers have been airing their grievances about the Karwa taxi service and its franchisees Al Million and Al Ijarah for some time now, and reporting arguments with taxi drivers, some of which have gotten ugly.
To address these concerns, national transport regulator Mowasalat has pledged to expand its car numbers significantly to ease the pressure on the current fleet, with Transport Minister Jassim Seif Al Sulaiti announcing yesterday that the current Karwa fleet of 2,500 taxis is set to double by 2018, as will its current fleet of 3,000 buses.
Expansion plans suffered a temporary setback this summer, when the planned introduction of a third franchisee, Petro Qatar, was canceled due to licensing issues.
Mowasalat has not yet responded to a request for comment.