Court rules Prague taxis can charge more
For years Prague City Hall has been doing battle with the city's taxi drivers, whose reputation for overcharging passengers has become blight on the city's name. Now that battle has taken a new turn. A Prague court has ruled that taxi drivers do not have to respect a maximum fare per kilometre set by the city's authorities.
"The ruling is nothing else but a confirmation of the fact that taxi drivers can set their prices themselves and that they do not have to follow the City Hall's regulations. This ruling opens the door for free price calculations and that's why it is a break-through decision."
Prague City Hall has introduced a maximum charge of 28 crowns (1.4 U.S. dollars) per kilometre. The court now said this is illegal because a regulation issued by the City Hall cannot be superior to the law. Tomio Okamura of the Association of Travel Agencies of the Czech Republic.
"We absolutely don't agree with the court's ruling. The act on prices allows for regulation only when the market is endangered by the effects of competition, or in extraordinary cases. We believe, however, that this is an extraordinary case. The court did not take into account the significance of the issue of taxi services for the development of tourism in Prague."
In Prague alone, an estimated 20 percent of all jobs are related to the tourist industry and tourism makes up for about four percent of Czech GDP, which is more than agriculture. This indeed appears to be sufficient argument, in Mr Okamura's opinion, to regard taxi services as a special case. Even the taxi company's attorney says that the ruling could harm tourism in the Czech capital.
The case now goes back to the Finance Ministry, which will have to make sure that city regulations do not contradict Czech law on the free calculation of prices. But ultimately it is up to Prague City Hall to come up with such a provision that would not go against the principles of market economy and at the same time make sure that visitors to Prague will not end up as prey for ruthless taxi drivers. After 18 years of fruitless efforts, it would be just about time.