WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - A new WUSA9 hidden camera investigation shows more than half of DC cabs tested are out of compliance for violations ranging from faulty new dome lights to broken credit card machines.
Over two days, WUSA9 Investigations tested 43 DC cabs on dome lights, credit card machines, required driver identification, and the mandatory posting passenger rights with the taxi commission's complaint and contact information.
26 failed one or more of the basic DC regulations including two with malfunctioning dome lights and nine drivers who claimed their credit card machines were not working.
The chairman of DC's Taxi Commission doesn't believe the undercover WUSA9 video reflects thesystem.
"I'm getting a different picture," DC Taxi Commission Chairman Ron Linton said about credit card failures. "I think its overstated by a significant amount the so called not working part of this thing."
Linton said the system is working, and said cabbies tell him they like the system too.
Laughter was the response from Gebrehaariat Gebremichaeo, a driver representing the DC Taxi Operators Association.
"They're ripping me off. I mean, this is not really fair," Gebremichaeo said. "Right now, I have evidence right here on my phone."
Gebremichaeo showed video after video of his credit card machine failing like the ones identified in the WUSA9 investigation.
In several cases, the credit card machines record zero balances when the actual fare was more than $10.
"I tell them, please guys, the machine is not working," Gebremichaeo said. "Big huge problem."
Gehbrehmiko blames the DC Taxi Commission for approving what he calls untested equipment with failure rates infuriating drivers and passengers.
Linton disagrees and said he's not getting that message from drivers or passengers.
" Driverstell me they're making more money," Linton said. "They like the credit card system. That their passengers like the credit card system."
Linton said if a driver racks up a fare without telling the passenger his credit card machine doesn't work, the passenger isn't responsible to pay it - but it is nearly impossible to know when a driver would know his machine isn't working prior to the transaction.
In one case,WUSA9'sRuss Ptacekswiped six working credit cards before the machine was able to successfully make one transaction.
In our test about 20% of drivers claimed broken machines.
"I don't think it's true," Linton said, but acknowledged the possibility that drivers may have told our undercover crews that machines aren't working. "They are saying it."
Gebremichaeo said it is true. "I believe them because it's my own experience." He said he's giving up on the credit card machine he paid several hundred dollars to have installed because it doesn't work.
He'll have to pay more for another - or risk fines from the Taxi Commission and lost revenue from passengers.
Your passenger rights in a DC cab and complaint info
1) Cab displaying "Taxi for hire" on their domes are required to stop for any passenger.
2) DC cabs may not inquire your destination prior to allowing you inside their cabs. If they stop, you're entitled to your ride.
3) DC Cabs are required to accept credit cards.
4) You have the right to be taken anywhere in the Metro Washington area, including Dulles Airport, Prince George's, Montgomery, Fairfax, and Arlington counties, along with the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church.
5) You are entitled to see the driver's "face card." You'll want that to report violations. It is required to be located on the right visor of the front seat (each cab should also have the company name and cab number printed on the door).
6) You're entitled to see the cab's rate card, and a paper copy of the meter's receipt.
7) You can enforce your rights by contacting the DC Taxicab Commission via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 202-645-6018