Drivers Must Display Prices, Carry Stopwatch, Charge By Minute

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New pedicab rules are going into effect Friday to prevent riders from getting ripped off.

Drivers will now have to clearly display prices, carry a stopwatch calibrated by the Department of Consumer Affairs and charge by the minute.

Previously, many drivers charged by city block and per passenger. Some added surcharges.

“The signs are complicated, people don’t understand them so drivers often add phantom charges to already ridiculous charges,” said Laramie Flick, acting president of the NYC Pedicab Owners Association. “There’s a lot of guys who survive as pedicab drivers only because they have the chutzpah to tell somebody their eight minute ride was $93.”

The new rules were put into effect after some visitors were hit with enormous tabs for relatively short rides.

“We’ve seen the stories of people charging way too much money and the city has reached, it’s just not going to fly. And so now we have a very simple set  of rules. You charge by only one method, per minute and you only use a DCA approved timer, that’s it,” NYC Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz said.

Flick said a Japanese tourist who got an astounding bill at the end of a 20-minute ride.

“She asked the driver how much, and he pointed to a sign that said $5,” said an email on behalf of the tourist who speaks little English. “When they arrived at the destination, he said $520! They were absolutely shocked, but having no idea what to do in such a situation, they just handed over their credit card. Upon returning to Japan, they saw on the credit card statement a charge of $720.”

“That is outrageous. I mean 20 minutes for $720? That’s serious money,” Flick said.

Flick told CBS 2’s Tamara Leitner that most drivers are not happy with the change.

“I would say I’m one of th eonly ones that’s happy with the new law. There are guys that have been charging obscene rates,” Flick said.

Last summer, one Texas family paid more than $400 for a 14-block ride.

Pedicab driver Sidiki Tapsoba said finding work has been difficult because of others overcharging customers.

“We lost 95 percent of business because of people charging alot,” Tapsoba said.

The city will also be providing each licensed driver with new information cards that serve as receipts and include detailed information about the driver, rate, name and contact information.

Tapsoba said the city should go a step further and set fixed rates like in a yellow cab. Currently, pedicab businesses can set their own price.

Drivers caught breaking the rules face a maximum fine of $500 for a fist offense and $1,000 for a second offense.

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