Unlicensed taxis that imitate reputable brands like Mai Linh and Vinasun are still operating in Ho Chi Minh City despite authorities' efforts to control them.
The illegal taxis can be spotted at crowded spots including Ben Thanh Market, Tan Son Nhat Airport, Tu Du Hospital and the hydrofoil wharf on Ton Duc Thang Street.
The fake taxis use logos resembling those of Mai Linh and Vinasun include M.Group, Vinasum, Vina, Vinamet, Taxi Meter, and Meter Taxi.
Nguyen Van Tien, Vinasun's director in charge of legal issues, said some fake taxis copy the appearance of the genuine ones, even imitating the light box. The fake taxi drivers wear the same uniforms of the reputed companies.
"It is hard even for taxi drivers of reputed companies to recognize their co-workers; they can only look at the plate to know if a taxi belongs to their company or not," Tien said.
He said Vinasun had filed lawsuits against 24 imitated taxis since early last year; 23 of the 24 taxis were unlicensed ones.
A HCMC court ordered the taxi drivers to pay fines and sign a commitment not to repeat their copying acts again, he added.
Generally, passengers can only recognize a fake taxi after they get aboard. They will know they are cheated after the driver announces how much they have to pay for the ride.
The costs are always throat-cutting high.
A customer introducing himself as Chau told Thanh Nien he was forced to pay VND1.5 million (US$72) for a short ride from the Ben Thanh Market to Pham Ngu Lao Street by a taxi that imitated Mai Linh's logo.
There are cases when the passengers did not accept to pay the rip-off, the drivers insulted and threatened them.
Ho Huy, general director of Mai Linh Group, said the imitated taxis had created an unhealthy competition among taxis and causing disorder to the city.
Ta Long Hy, director of HCMC Taxi Association, the drivers of unlicensed taxis have many tricks to "steal" money from customers, such as installing a device into the meter so that the costs are always higher than normal.
They can make a hand-made logo and paste it on the taxi; when traffic inspectors come, they put the logo away, he said.