Prague is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. Much of its breathtaking architecture has been preserved, food and drink is quite affordable, hotels offer the services their customers need, and all this without losing its magical and historical atmosphere. But if there is one thing that has harmed the city's good name, it's certain greedy and corrupt taxi drivers. And after years of complaints from the public, Prague's city council has finally begun a rather radical campaign aimed at clamping down on the offenders.
In the past month, Prague City Hall has sent out numerous undercover inspectors to ascertain if the complaints about taxi drivers are justified. The result; a much larger proportion of drivers than expected overcharge their foreign customers, sometimes asking for as much as 5 times the actual price. According to Pavel Pavlat, the Chairman of the Prague Taxi Association, the reason behind the overcharging can be attributed to the fact that the standard charges are too low for taxi drivers to make a living:
"Prices are set according to theoretical calculations, meaning the number of kilometres stated on the map plus a 30 crown surcharge and a 3 minute wait. But, in reality, when you actually drive the route, it ends up costing more."
But Prague City Hall does not buy this excuse. It says that charging a customer 600 crowns for a 120 crown ride is not a matter of financial survival but a crime. That is why drastic measures had to be introduced. On Friday, it published the names and photographs of 21 known corrupt taxi drivers on the Internet. Officials also hope to post more detailed information on guilty drivers and have proposed revoking their licenses. The current ticket and fine system also needs to be stricter. But how many of these measures stand-up in Czech law? And how are the taxi drivers themselves reacting to them? Zdenek Zajicek is the Prague city hall director:
"We tried to find the best and most efficient methods and with that we bordered on the limits of the law. The inspectors were subjected to verbal insult, some taxi drivers tried to run them down, and a case that can be regarded as a kidnapping attempt was also recorded. The most offensive reactions were on the web page in the public discussion forum over the week-end. Apart from rude verbal insults, we also recorded threats of physical attack."
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