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Stockholm tourists stung in taxi-fare battle

Stockholm tourists stung in taxi-fare battle

Published: 25 Apr 2012 14:26 GMT+02:00
Updated: 25 Apr 2012 14:26 GMT+02:00

Tourists visiting Stockholm face a greater chance of being ripped off by taxi drivers than almost every other major city in the world, The Local's Geoff Mortimore discovers.

When hailing a cab in the Swedish capital, tourists should be on their guard, according to the results of a recent survey which found that visitors to Stockholm are easy prey for unscrupulous taxi drivers.

"Charging high prices is not illegal, so all we can really do is try to make tourists as aware as possible," says Peter Lindqvist, head of the Stockholm Visitors Board.

Lindqvist fears the growing problem could have serious consequences for tourism in the country, particularly in Stockholm where it appears to be worst of all, as the situation threatens to get out of hand.

The survey exposing Stockholm's taxi price problems, carried out by the Swedish Hotel and Restaurant Managers Association (SHR), warns that this growing problem could have a long term detrimental effect on Stockholm’s reputation and popularity among visitors.

Tourists are apparently being regularly targeted and tricked into paying exorbitant taxi bills, while hotel staff also claim they receive threats and abuse as the battle for prospective clients rages on their doorstep.

With reports in the press claiming that unsuspecting visitors have been charged as much as 2,000 kronor ($295), for a journey from Stockholm's Arlanda Airport to the middle of the capital, several hotels have even started their own taxi companies, to ensure their guests travel with a reputable company, supplying safe vehicles and standardized pricing.

The confusion arises because there is effectively a three-tier system in operation.

The main taxi companies in Stockholm by-and-large charge roughly the same prices for the same journey. Then, muddying the waters somewhat, there are legal private companies, who are free to charge what they like, while a third group, illegal drivers, are also vying for the same passengers.

The problem of legal, but excessive charging has steadily progressed since the deregulation of the industry in the 1990s, according to Lindqvist.

Passengers caught out have no legal recourse, because the taxi companies can, in effect, charge what they like in a free market, as long as there is a meter showing the cost.

Under current legislation, the minute a customer climbs into a taxi he or she effectively enters into an agreement with the driver and are obligated to pay, no matter how high the charge ends up.

A police control recently carried out near the ferry port Värtahamn in Stockholm, revealed the true extent of the problem. The authorities discovered that some independent drivers were charging more than 20 times the amount that the larger companies charged for the same journey.

All of which could have grave consequences for Stockholm, if it cannot shrug off a reputation for conning visitors.

“It could turn into a serious problem, because tourists are going to feel ripped off and frustrated when they realize they have paid a lot for a journey that they can see would have been half the amount if they had used another company. The fact that it is legal means it is even more irritating for them,” says Lindqvist.

Meanwhile, the taxi drivers' association is also incensed by the increasing tension caused by rogue drivers as well as high charging legal operators, and has called for a new law to fix pricing.

In a free market however, this may prove problematic.

In their defence, those smaller companies, free to charge what they like, complain that they are victimised and tarred with the same brush as illegal drivers. As a result, some claim, they are abused, threatened and have to put up with hotel staff warning their guests from taking their taxis.

These operators argue that because they cannot run in the same way as their larger rivals, who have call up operations and pre-booking possibilities, they have to, at times, charge higher rates.

Finding a solution may not be easy. There have been calls for a price capping system, but whether that in itself would help stem the rising number of rogue operators who already work outside such guidelines, is questionable.

The taxi drivers' association urges people to always check the price sticker before they jump into a taxi on the street, but any further possible measures are tricky, because of the way the law stands.

“For us, the best thing we can do is work together with those within the industry and do as much as we can to inform people of the potential dangers,” says Peter Lindqvist.

“We need to be better at warning people at airports, train stations and hotels that there is a pricing structure depending on what company is operating the service. That way, at least they can make an informed choice for themselves. Beyond that it is hard to see what more we can do.”

There are few winners in this battle, but if it is allowed to carry on too long, Stockholm as a whole may pay the highest price of all.

Geoff Mortimore (mortimore.geoff@gmail.com)

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Your comments about this article

15:30 April 25, 2012 by StockholmSam
Buyer beware. Free-market economics is the law of the land.
15:51 April 25, 2012 by hipersons1
... except in the housing market.
16:59 April 25, 2012 by JulieLou40
When was that photo taken? 1974?
16:59 April 25, 2012 by Abe L
What? Stockholm is paradise compared to most other European cities when it comes down to taxis ripping you off. This doesn't add up at all.

What would help tourists is forcing cab drivers to provide pricing information in English in a comprehendible format. Simple, what will going from A to B cost me, information.
17:06 April 25, 2012 by bri-z
All Taxi`s must have a meter.

So have the ruling body set the prices in the meter and seal it. Then any caught overcharging/ or broken seai get a fine or ban for driving a taxi.
17:07 April 25, 2012 by Larry Thrash
I usually pay just under $100.00 which is OUTRAGOUS! At least I know what it's going to cost before I get in a taxi so it's not such a shock. I always go with Taxi Stockholm, never a "black taxi".
17:08 April 25, 2012 by ?????
Well, probably the politicians in Sweden find it easier to chase tourists in airports and stations, or waste TAX money on flyers, than simply apply a law where all taxis should charge the same price per distance. It's so difficult, isn't it? Oh, I forgot, it's a model country...
17:49 April 25, 2012 by Scambaiter
What nobody on the forum ranting about jihadists and Muslim extremists?
18:05 April 25, 2012 by Happy Expat
Only you No 8 - only you:-)
18:43 April 25, 2012 by EtoileBrilliant
Headline should read "Stockholm Tourists Get Ripped Off in Sweden" - I've never met a visitor who has not experienced sticker shock when coming to Sweden. Restaurants, hotels, taxis, drinks. Swedes still sit there wondering why the tourist numbers are beneath official projections - bad service and poor quality may wash with Swedes but tourists vote with their feet.
18:47 April 25, 2012 by johan rebel
The scum who drive cabs in Amsterdam will give the Swedes a run for their money.
19:34 April 25, 2012 by planet.sweden
I experienced this myself just last week. Arriving back at T-Centralen by the Arlanda Express I went straight to the first taxi driver in line. However realizing it wasn't a regular taxi I asked the driver the price of a ride to my inner city home.

"Oh I can do it for 250 sek" he replied.

That's more than double the normal price!

I removed my bags from the back of his cab and walked down the line until I found a taxi firm I recognized. Ironically the first I found was the last in the queue, and as he had just settled down with his newspaper and coffee I got the impression he was actually pleased to see me.

Nevertheless he drove me home, 110 sek, plus my thank you tip.

From now on I'll trust Taxi Stockholm 150 000, Taxi Kurir 300 000, and Taxi 020 20 20 20, and that's it!
19:42 April 25, 2012 by canuk
19:59 April 25, 2012 by Reason abd Realism
Why are the municipal politicians so spineless?

No problem with derrugalting the industry if, at the same time, all taxis must clearly post their rates on their doors (base amount + SEK/km or SEK/minute). One could then stand on a busy corner and quickly learn the difference between the highway robbers vs the normal taxis.

Stockholm tourists already feel they are being nickled and dimed to death, beginning with the tax surcharge they pay on taxis that sit just outside the Arlanda Express (already a very expensive train ride) stop in the city. Stockholm gets away with it partly because tourists who have just arrived have not yet become good at converting SEK back to Euros or dollars.

At the end of the day, a taxi is just another car, and Stockholm is so insanely anti car (congestion toll charges, vastly insufficient downtown parking spaces, parking tickets even if you are away from your car for 1 minute) that the politicians do not care what happens to you in a taxi.
00:06 April 26, 2012 by Zombie
I only go with Taxi Stockholm or Taxi Kurir

Never been ripped off.
09:53 April 26, 2012 by EP
What? Sweds are so anal when it comes to rules and regulations, I'm surprised that they can't get the stupid taxis under control. Anyway, I'm sure they'll just find yet another avgift to charge us when taking the taxi in the future (as already from Stockholm C and the A-train)
13:44 April 26, 2012 by Spuds MacKenzie
I was forced to take a taxi last night since in Stockholm (I rarely use them) and was SHOCKED at the high price! Same distance even in a so-called "expensive city" in USA like New York or San Francisco is about 1/4th the price!
13:45 April 26, 2012 by Mb 65
They are obviously not paying tax on these rip off prices so get the tax office down there. in New York they stop taxi's and check if the meter is working and that there is nothing illegal going on. There was something wrong so they made him take us to our destination and told not to charge us. they followed us and then took him into their car.
15:59 April 26, 2012 by shaon72
I think always try to well informed before you travelled in new country by your travel agent or internet or some other way. It's true that it's open market but at least some company they have a standard price. Like Taxi stockholm. I have seen many people got refund the deference amount if the price was so high or unexpected.

All the best.
17:32 April 26, 2012 by cogito
Sweden is the only country I know of where deregulation leads to higher prices.
21:57 April 26, 2012 by Max Reaver
Last time I took a taxi in Stockholm, me and some friends had to move a buddy who passed out after excessive drinking... The driver didn't want to take us, after we moved our friend onto the van. The guy puked while unconscious, the driver forced us to pay 3000 SEK for cleaning the seats and for not being able to use the vehicle for the next shift! What's funny was, the sum he asked for was too big to receive by debit card, so he had to drive us to an ATM, then he even gave us a receipt of the 3kkr. The next day my friend called the cab company, they were shocked hearing about the driver's demand and gave my friend full refund of the 3000 SEK. Don't know what became of the driver, but I hope he got what he deserved.
09:20 April 27, 2012 by Reason abd Realism
Max unless the taxi driver's union allows them to take a night off for puke removal with full pay for lost fares, then I am not entirely sympathetic to your example of 'misstreatment' by a taxi driver. He gave you a receipt so the 3000 is taxed. Maybe that is the amount the union instructs them to charge fares who puke uncontrollably within the taxi at the start of a shift.

Anyway your friend who drank himself into a state of comatose (while retaining the ability to puke) raises another age old question, namely, is the last bar where he was served alcohol, or the individual him/herself, responsible when someone drinks oneself to the point of alcohol toxicity. Easy to puke all over transportation services and bar staff but if you did it on your uncle's cashmire sofa he may ask you to cover the cost of the clean up.
13:51 April 28, 2012 by Max Reaver
@Reason abd Realism

Ok i give you the whole story to clarify.

It was a business dinner with some Asian investors. Due to certain customs, at that dinner you have to drink when offered. our friend usually could handle a lot, but he wasn't in his best shape that day. The reason he passed out so easily.

First of all, the guy didnt puke down the entire cab. We offered to clean the van, which could've been done in 10 min. But the driver said no, he wanted cash. When we called the cab company, they told us the driver had no right to claim 3000 SEK for the mess, and that they didnt know about this particular event. Taxed or not, had we not complained, the 3kkr would've been just another (very) expensive taxi fare. Part of that money becomes the driver's commission.

Furthermore, the cab driver never needed to clean the cab himself. Because he was on his way of returning the van, being near the end of his shift. I'd be surprised if the company didn't have reserves in the garage. If vandalism occurs to the vehicle, the bulk of the expenses are covered by insurance company. We consulted some lawyers, who also told us that 3kkr is wayy out of the realistic range. if we really had to pay, they could send an invoice later on. Obviously, the credit card reader didnt even allow the driver to charge that much money.

I'm not trying to gain your sympathy. I'm just here to tell ppl another story of how taxi drivers, being in a position of power, abuse that power.
16:52 April 28, 2012 by Britt-Marie7
Many years ago we had the same problem in Los Angeles with taxis driving from the airport. Now there are only 3 companies allowed to drive from the airport. And I always ask what the price will be from my destination to wherever I am going when I order a taxi.
23:16 May 2, 2012 by jack sprat
It's gone on for far too long.and it's not rocket science to provide satisfactory and fair legislation if the politicians have the will to do so, which begs the question,.....why don't they ?
12:03 May 3, 2012 by Shibumi
The taxi situation in Stockholm is a disgrace and certainly not worthy of a city that wishes to be seen as "the Capital of Scandinavia"
14:07 May 3, 2012 by rufus.t.firefly
I've never seen anything like it. Because I am American, I'm always assumed to be a mark. In almost all cases, the drivers intentionally take absurd routes to jack up the already insane rates. When I protest, I am invariably met with vicious abuse. People (fewer and fewer over time) who come to visit me from the U.S. are stunned at the rudeness and lack of principles and vow never to return-and they don't. Wake up Sweden.
21:10 July 31, 2012 by Swedish Cat
It should really be illegal to trick tourists and people coming out of bars late. The taxi companies know what they are doing as they are even imitating Taxi Stockholm's logo. Taxi Stockholm even had to change logo as people in the end could not tell the difference including myself. It is not just only the price that differs but it is scary for a girl to get into a black taxi late at night thinking it is another company.

Just so annoying being jumped by all these conmen wanting to rip you off just stepping outside shouting and pulling your bag out of your arms. Not what tourist expect coming to our beautiful well organized city "Capital of Scandinavia" and really feel myself that this type of behaviour does not belong here. Taxi Stockholm and other serious companies are sitting quiet in their cars waiting.
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