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Suzhou bans taxi booking apps

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Smartphone apps that book taxis have been growing in popularity across many Chinese cities thanks to their convenience, ease of use and promotional offers... But if you are in Suzhou, a major city in Jiangsu province, you might be stuck waiting, after the local government has recently banned all private-sector taxi booking apps within the city.

Want to grab a cab through your favorite taxi booking app?

If you live in Suzhou, you won't be able to anymore.

The city's taxi drivers will now ignore your requests, even if you offer a hefty tip.

Suzhou's transportation department has outlawed all private-sector taxi booking apps such as Tencent-backed Didi Dache, the most popular one in China.

The only option for passengers now is to use an app approved by the municipal government.

Although it's not as flashy and popular as private developer apps, it still does the job.

The municipal government first introduced a taxi calling platform in 2004... and started to incorporate requests made by smart phone taxi apps into the same municipal transport platform starting in 2012.

An average of 5,700 online location-based requests are pushed to as many as 4,000 cabbies in the city everyday.

Despite being highly popular among its users, the private taxi calling apps have come under criticism from some government departments and the public.

The arguments state that the apps distort the market and artificially inflate prices, by sending cabs to the highest bidder.

Fei Xinyi, the director of a taxi call center in Suzhou, explains why the taxi calling apps have been harmful.

Those waiting the traditional way for a taxi have also been affected by the taxi calling apps.

The 10 yuan cash rebates offered to drivers and passengers using the app has led to many car drivers refusing to pick up regular passengers waiting by the roadside.

But some experts have expressed concerns about the government interfering too much in the market.

Prior to Suzhou's ban, Beijing had briefly banned all such apps, before app developers changed their policy of the additional pick-up incentive fee that the app charges users and gives to drivers.

More recently, authorities in Shanghai imposed curbs on taxi-booking apps during peak traffic hours due to increasing complaints from regular passengers who say taxi drivers are refusing to pick up people not using the app.

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