No more JustGrab for Comfort cabbies

This comes after LTA says taxis can only offer flat fares if their firms had 'endorsed Grab' to do so

All ComfortDelGro cabbies will be removed from ride-hailing app Grab's JustGrab platform, only a month after being told by the ride-hailing firm that they could opt in.

Grab had entered a JustGrab partnership with five other taxi operators here a year ago, and opened the service - which lets commuters book a taxi or private-hire car for a flat fare set by the firm - to ComfortDelGro cabbies in February.

Yesterday, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said it had issued Grab a warning, two days after telling the media that taxis should offer only metered fares unless their companies had "endorsed Grab to offer flat fares on their behalf".

When such rides are not endorsed, these cabbies are deemed by the LTA to have "overcharged" commuters, the authority added yesterday.

An LTA spokesman reiterated: "Taxi drivers are reminded that they can accept only flat fares set by registered third-party taxi booking service providers, such as Uber and Grab, if these are endorsed by taxi companies."

ComfortDelGro, the largest taxi operator here with more than 13,000 taxis, had in January launched UberFlash in partnership with Grab's competitor, Uber. Like JustGrab, the service dispatches the nearest ComfortDelGro taxi or Uber private-hire car to riders.

GrabTaxi head Melvin Vu told The Straits Times that ComfortDelGro cabbies had been given the choice to join JustGrab as a means for them to earn additional income.

"We strongly believe that taxi drivers, as self-employed individuals, should be given the choice and flexibility to join all platforms, and not be limited by corporate arrangements," he said.

"We will continue to actively engage the LTA to encourage innovative thinking, and taxi companies to work with us on improving driver livelihoods and passenger experience."

National Taxi Association executive adviser Ang Hin Kee agreed that cabbies should be allowed to take bookings from any booking service to allow for a more open and competitive market.

He said since cabbies are not employed by the taxi operators, and only rent their vehicles from the companies, placing too many restrictions on them would make it seem like an employee-employer relationship.

"If operators restrict drivers to only one booking app, it essentially limits their customer choice," said Mr Ang, who is also an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC.

Last year, following reports of talks between ComfortDelGro and Uber, Grab had offered ComfortDelGro cabbies aggressive rental discounts to either join one of its partner taxi firms, or sign up as a driver with its private-hire car service GrabCar.

Meanwhile, a Grab spokesman confirmed that ComfortDelGro cabbies will continue to be able to take bookings through the GrabTaxi service, which dispatches metered taxis to commuters.