Loads of complaints about cabbies overcharging visitors
The Pacific Princess cruise ship is set to call into port today and cops will be standing by to assist them with transportation in an effort to enforce local laws regarding cab fares.
This is according to the Program Coordinator of the DPS Office of Highway Safety, Fred Scanlan, who said the enforcement is necessary in order to combat the high number of complaints received by the Dept. of Commerce regarding cab drivers alleged to be overcharging tourists.
Last month, a total of six cruise ships docked at the Fagatogo wharf. Along with the influx of visitors and tourists came an increase in the number of inquiries to the DOC, about cab drivers charging tourists a “per person” fee to drive them around.
According to Scanlan, some tourists reported that instead of paying one straight fare, as is the norm and in accordance with the law, they were charged “per person”.
Yesterday, Samoa News received a copy of taxicab and bus rates, as noted in local statutes. Section 19.0132 (a) details the “maximum permissible rates per trip, regardless of the number of passengers carried.”
For the “one-way” fare heading west from the Fagatogo Marketplace, the lowest fare is $2, for rides within Fagatogo to destinations like Sadie’s by the Sea, Utulei, and the Tramway. The highest rate of $35.50 is for a ride to Fagamalo, $30.50 to Maloata, and $27.25 to Fagali’i.
Other villages in between vary by location, with a trip to Leone costing $14 and anywhere between $5.75 and $8 for a trip to Nuuuli — depending on which part of the village you’re going to, with the main village being the closest and Manulele School being the farthest.
A tour up to Aoloau will cost $14, and $11 is the charge for a ride to Maliu Mai Beach Resort.
For trips heading east from the Fagatogo Marketplace, the cheapest fare of $2 is for a ride to either ASCO Motors, Evalani’s, or the Pago Plaza.
Going to Fagasa will cost $8.75 while the maximum of $25.50 can be charged for a ride to either Vatia, Afono or Onenoa. According to the rate schedule, it’s going to cost $20 for a ride to Tula and $10 will take you to Two-Dollar Beach in Avaio.
According to the rate schedule, a charter bus costs $10.50 per hour and waiting will cost $2 for every 15 minutes. The minimum charge is $1.
According to subsection (e) of section 19.0132, “any overcharge or irregularities should be immediately reported with details to the Police Department of 633-1111 or a complaint filed with the Commerce Commission at 633-5155.”
Section 19.0133, which refers to “bus rates” show that the cheapest fare of $1, is charged for rides anywhere between the former Marist Brothers residence in Atu’u to the end of Fagaalu village. The highest fare of $2.25 is noted for a ride from the Fagatogo Marketplace to Vatia. The next highest rate of $2 is the maximum price that can be charged to anyone riding from the Fagatogo Marketplace to Onenoa, Aoa, Masefau, Masausi, Sailele, Afono, and areas beyond Amanave to Poloa, Fagali’i, and Fagamalo.
In addition to tourists, locals who catch a cab or ride the aiga bus frequently “need to be aware of the laws that are in place, as far as what they should be charged and what they should pay when using public transportation,” Scanlan advised.
A copy of the taxicab and bus rate schedule is accessible at the DOC main office in Utulei.
Scanlan said that today, police officers will be at the port when the cruise ship arrives. They will be speaking to tourists — not the cab drivers — inquiring about their plans and where they intend to travel while on island.
The officers will be at the port waiting for the cabs to pull in, where they will ask the tourists where they went and how much they were charged, to determine whether or not they were cheated.
Scanlan said the issue came to light when a high number of tourists sent complaints to the DOC, wondering how much fares should be for rides to certain areas and why they were charged ‘per person’.
He said that in addition to cab drivers over charging for fares, their office has already learned that some locals have been using privately owned vehicles as cabs. “This is against the law,” he reminded, adding that they already know who the culprits are. He refused to delve into details.
He said a lot of “questionable and fishy” things have been going on since the number of incoming cruise ships has increased.
One of those things includes promises by people on the port of “flat rate” fees for transportation if they choose to ride in a certain cab or bus.
The concern is that efforts to lure visitors to the territory will be useless and downplayed, when already departed tourists decide to go public — whether through comments online via blogs and social media, or word of mouth — about being cheated by the territory’s cab and bus drivers.
In addition to today’s visit, two more cruise ships — the Queen Victoria and the Marina — are scheduled to arrive in the territory this month on the 18th and 20th, respectively.
Scanlan said they are trying to put the word out that cheating — incoming visitors as well as residents — is against the law and there are penalties in place for violators.