Richmond ride-hailing company denies having Chinese-only policy

Click to play video: 'Strong reaction to illegal ride sharing in Richmond'
Strong reaction to illegal ride sharing in Richmond
There is some strong reaction tonight on our report about a ride sharing service up and running in Richmond, and how its drivers can be very choosy about who they carry. Tanya Beja reports – Jan 10, 2018

Editor’s Note: The headline of the story has been updated to remove the word “illegal.”

A Richmond-based ride-hailing company insisted Tuesday that it does not have a policy against picking up non-Chinese passengers.

That was one day after a Global News story on Gokabu Technologies and its app, Kabu, showed a driver passing up a fare and saying that the company asked him “not to take any westerners.”

WATCH: Ride sharing in B.C.

Click to play video: 'Illegal ride sharing in B.C.'
Illegal ride sharing in B.C.

In a statement, Ge Zhang, the director of product development at Gokabu Technologies Inc., said there’s no company policy that disallows westerners or non-Chinese passengers.

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But since the app is “currently only available in the Chinese language, and not all drivers are fluent in English,” drivers have the option of not taking non-Chinese-speaking passengers “to reduce frustration in communication and riding experience.”

Ge Zhang said the initial Global News story about Kabu created a “negative impression over our business intention.”

Gokabu Technologies has provided ride-hailing services in Metro Vancouver for about two years now, and it added service on Vancouver Island last summer, the statement said.

“Most of our customers are Chinese-speaking local residents or short-term visitors from China at this moment because the app itself is currently only in the Chinese language due to limited resources in development,” Ge Zhang said.

“Multi-lingual updates are already in development since December 2017, and will be released to the public once it’s completed.”

But Gokabu has also operated without any legal framework in which to do so — that’s something that the provincial government is currently working on as part of hearings looking at the future of ride-hailing in the province.

And it’s not alone: in October, the Passenger Transportation Branch (PTB) identified seven companies offering ride-hailing services around the province, including Gokabu, Longmao, Udi Kuaiche, RaccoonGo and U Drop.

LISTEN: Penalties for illegal ride-hailing operations should be steeper, says community advocate
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Unlicensed ride-hailing drivers face fines of $1,150; as many as eight fines had been handed out by October.

“Clearly the minimum fine that they have to pay if they get caught is not enough,” said NDP MLA Ravi Kahlon. “What we’ve heard clearly in this community is it needs to be beefed up.”

READ MORE: ‘The car should be seized’: Green leader calls for crackdown on illegal ride-hailing

BC Green Leader Andrew Weaver had an idea for how to deal with unlicensed drivers.

The fine, he said, should be “maybe $1,500, and the second time, your car is impounded.

“That’ll quickly, quickly put an end to non-regulated ride-hailing going on.”

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