New York hoping to repay money to scammed taxi customers

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The Independent US

Thousands of people ripped off in a widespread scam by New York taxi drivers who illegally doubled the rate of their rides could get some money back, but that is less likely to happen for those who paid with cash and didn't keep their receipts, the city said yesterday.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said his administration is examining how it can reimburse passengers who have been cheated in the scheme that went on undiscovered for years.

Any relief will likely come for only a small percentage of the 1.8 million riders who were scammed. The city said it will likely be able to find only people who used credit cards, and typically about 20 per cent of rides are paid that way.

"I don't know how practical it is to get rebates for people, but we'll certainly try to do that — we do have records," Bloomberg said.

The city's Taxi and Limousine Commission said last week that it had examined data from global positioning devices in taxis and found that thousands of cabbies had used a rate double what they were allowed to charge on at least 1.8 million trips over the past two years.

The higher code is supposed to be used for trips to the suburbs, and is 80 cents per one-fifth of a mile, versus the regular 40 cents per one-fifth of a mile used inside the city.

The average rider was overcharged $4.45. In total, passengers were relieved of more than $8.3 million in 26 months — which is as long as GPS devices have been required in taxis.

Credit card data is stored only for a few days, so the city is trying to work with credit card processors to identify victims of the scam.

People who suspect they were overcharged and have receipts also may be able to file claims.

The city said about 3,000 cabbies are blamed for the majority of illegal trips; they were found to have used the higher meter rate more than 100 times.

But the data also show that 35,558 of the city's 48,300 licensed cabbies illegally overcharged a rider at least once.

The commission last week turned over its findings to the city's Department of Investigation. Cabbies may face criminal charges.