It is reasonable to assume that two cases of exorbitant fares being charged by taxi drivers picking up arriving passengers at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport reported by "Globes" are just the tip of the iceberg, and that there are many cases that have not been exposed.
In the first case, a tourist who landed from Greece was charged NIS 700 for a ride from the airport to Rehovot, a 22 kilometer journey by the most direct route. After the exposé by "Globes", the driver was located, and he returned part of the money to the passenger. In the second case, a tourist from the US was asked to pay NIS 2,400 for a taxi ride from Ben Gurion Airport to Eilat, double the fare as calculated by a taxi meter.
The cases were referred to the Ministry of Transport, which regulates taxis. In its response, the ministry said that it "takes a grave view of unlawful charges for taxi rides, and is acting to prevent such cases recurring through regular enforcement activity."
Asked about sanctions against the drivers whose details, as they appeared on the receipts given to the tourists, were forwarded to it, the ministry said that "the matter is being investigated" - not a satisfactory response at a time when the number of tourists visiting Israel is rising by the week, after two years of an almost complete halt to incoming tourism.
"Not a one-time event"
Now, The Movement for Quality Government in Israel is asking the Ministry of Transport for information about how the cases reported by "Globes" are being dealt with. "The fear arises that this is not a question of a one-time event but of a recurring and problematic pattern that requires in depth attention and clarification, as this behavior harms both the tourists whose money is stolen and Israel's image as host country," say Adv. Tomer Naor, chief legal officer at The Movement for Quality Government in Israel and Shaked Nadiv, who coordinates enquiries from the public at the movement, in a letter to Minister of Transport Merav Michaeli and to the director general of the ministry Michal Frank.
In 2017, the tender method for choosing a taxi operator at Ben Gurion Airport was abolished, along with the supervision of taxi drivers at the airport. "Since then," the letter states, "ugly phenomena such as overcharging unwary tourists for taxi rides have significantly increased, in a way that in our view necessitates greater enforcement, and immediate attention to the matter by the Ministry of Transport. We therefore seek to receive information on the actions and measures that the Ministry of Transport has instituted so far to deal with the matter, and to enquire whether there is a comprehensive action plan to stamp out the phenomenon. We also wish to enquire whether and how the Ministry of Transport has dealt with the drivers described in the reports."
In an application under the Freedom of Information Law, The Movement for Quality Government in Israel has also asked for details of complaints about taxi drivers received since 2018 and on the way in which the complaints were treated, including information on how many proceedings ended with sanctions being imposed on the drivers. By law, the Ministry of Transport is obliged to answer the application within thirty days.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on March 21, 2022.
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