Many cars in Ho Chi Minh City have been disguised to look like well-known taxi brands in order to cheat customers, local authorities have said.
The Transport Department and Traffic Police have reported that the fake cabs use meters that do not run properly and charge customers more than they should, according to a Tuoi Tre article published Tuesday.
The newspaper reported that the department issued the statement while in the middle of an on-going investigation into the issue.
A representative from Mai Linh Taxi, one of Vietnam's most popular and reputable cab companies known for its green markings, said that many cars have copied its distinctive logo and coloring in order to cheat customers and avoid the police.
The cars use a light box and stickers that can be removed when police are sighted, the representative said.
Fake taxi cabs operate mostly in the city's backpacker district on streets like Pham Ngu Lao and De Tham, or at places where large numbers of tourists gather such as Ben Thanh market, the Saigon River wharf, and Tan Son Nhat Airport.
Ta Long Hy, President of HCMC Taxi Cab Association, said it's almost impossible to distinguish between fake taxi cabs and real ones. He added that customers only realize they'be been duped when it comes time to pay.
An investigator from the city Transport Department said fake cabs often take tourists, who have no knowledge of the city, on roundabout routes that cost more. The meters in many fake cabs have also been tampered with, he said.
In May this year, Mai Linh Taxi received a complaint from a customer who traveled with a Mai Linh-labeled taxi from District 1 to Tan Son Nhat Airport and was charged VND4 million (US$194).
The fare would be a couple of hundred-thousand dong in a normal taxi.
A source from Vinasun, a popular taxi brand in HCMC, said that the firm receives five to seven complaints every month from customers who use fake taxis emblazoned with the Vinasun logo.
The corporation has filed dozens of lawsuits against cars and drivers illegally using its brand name and logo.
In early July, a trial in Binh Thanh District forced a driver to compensate the firm with VND1 million for using it's logo.
Hy said customers can avoid being cheated by calling a real taxi company and ordering a cab instead of hailing one on the street.
He also said that taxi cab firms can also help themselves by improving their services and having their own inspectors, instead of relying on authorities.
Officials from the Transport Department have fined hundreds of taxi cabs a total of nearly VND500 million (US$24,250) for such violations. And that's just one month into its current investigation. More fines are sure to follow.
But representatives from large taxi cab firms said that the average fine of VND2.5 million per violation is too small.
They say that most fake cabs were not seized and have continued operating after paying such fines.