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Italy investigates taxi sector over long waits and payment issues

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AFP/The Local - [email protected]
Italy investigates taxi sector over long waits and payment issues
Pedestrians cross an empty taxi lane in central Rome. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Italy's competition watchdog said on Tuesday it was looking into the country's taxi sector, which is run by a powerful lobby, amid reports of a severe shortage in major cities.

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The antitrust authority said its investigation followed the emergence of several "critical issues" in Rome, Milan and Naples, with customers reporting long waiting times and some taxi drivers refusing to take card payments.

The body, which will "examine possible initiatives aimed at protecting the market and consumers," has requested information in particular on the number of available licences.

READ ALSO: Why it's so hard to find a taxi in Italy this summer

The Italian government said on Tuesday it would "study the problem of the taxi service in the coming days" to find "an efficient and transparent solution for citizens, which is fair for taxi drivers and respectful of market rules".

Italy has long experienced taxi shortages, with the situation usually blamed on the fact that authorities in Italy's biggest cities have not issued any new taxi licences for well over a decade.

Italy's taxi drivers are a powerful lobby and have held strikes to block previous efforts to increase competition. They are particularly loathe to allow an increase in the number of licenses, fearing they would be worth less on resale.

In June, an attempt by the mayor of Milan to issue 1,000 new licences was rejected by regional authorities under pressure from the local taxi lobby.

Rome and Milan, Italy’s two largest cities, haven’t issued any new taxi driver licences since 2006.

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The Italian capital Rome today has around 7,800 taxis for some 2.8 million inhabitants. In comparison, French capital Paris has 18,500 for a similar number of inhabitants, as well as a much more developed public transport network.

Milan meanwhile has just 4,900 taxis and 1.3 million residents.

READ ALSO: Why can’t I get an Uber in Italy?

Compounding the problem, there are few alternatives to traditional taxi services in Italy.

While ride-hailing apps have become a standard way of getting around other cities worldwide, Uber remains banned in Italy over concerns about unfair competition for taxi drivers.

After striking a deal with taxi dispatcher IT Taxi last year, Uber Black – the ‘luxury’ version of the popular app – is now available in ten Italian cities, but services remain very limited.

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