The Transport Department is considering increasing the penalty on drivers of illegal hire cars, also known as white licensed cars, including Uber drivers who drive without proper permits.
Acting Secretary for Transport and Housing Raymond So Wai-man said in the Legislative Council yesterday that the Transportation Department is reviewing the necessity of raising penalties for illegal carriage of passengers for reward. It is also consulting different sectors for inputs so the government can report to Legco's transport panel by the end of the year's legislative session.
So said the government currently has no plan to revoke the licences of offenders, and it looks to hearing advice and demands from different stakeholders before handing the consultation report to the transport panel.
Another concern relates to insurance. So said drivers are generally required to provide information on the uses of vehicles when buying a third-party risks insurance.
If drivers fail to truthfully disclose that a vehicle will be used for hire or reward, the insurance policy may be invalidated.
But under the current ordinance, private car owners are obliged to obtain Hire Car Permits before offering carriage service on reward. With no insurance plan covering the illegal conduct, drivers and passengers of white licensed cars are most likely not covered by any insurance.
Transport constituency lawmaker Frankie Yick Chi-ming asked So whether the government will propose any measure to combat e-hailing platforms, such as Uber.
So replied that it was legal for licensed rental cars to find customers with these online platforms, but it is illegal for the platforms to provide services with white licensed cars. On Yick's concern, So said police will continue to combat illegal conduct, but he did not say what can be done to deter e-hailing mobile apps from offering services to white licensed cars.
He said the government will not condone such activities, citing police enforcement actions on 126 cases of illegal carriage of passengers for reward by private cars or light goods vehicles between 2015 and 2017.