Two passenger transport companies in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau are asking competent authorities to probe a case in which several bogus bus operators are allegedly using their brand names to trick, overcharge and even threaten passengers.
Hoa Mai Tourism Service Company and Toan Thang Company, which are the two firms that offer transport services between Vung Tau and Ho Chi Minh City, have informed their passengers of the fake coaches that have been illegally leveraging their brand names.
Vung Tau is a famous beach city in Ba Ria-Vung Tau, about 120km from Ho Chi Minh City.
A recent Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper probe showed that the bogus vehicles often target the passengers near Mien Dong (Eastern) and Mien Tay (Western) Bus Station in Binh Thanh and Binh Tan District, and several stops along National Highway 1.
The fraudulent coaches also dupe passengers around the Gieng Nuoc intersection and on Le Van Loc Street in Vung Tau.
Their operators have copied the exact appearance of the buses operated by Hoa Mai and Toan Thang, including their brand names, paint colors, route indication as well as contact details.
Over 40 fake buses have been recorded in the two cities, according toTuoi Tre newspaper reporters.
Many victims who were hustled onto the copycat buses were overcharged and treated in a rude manner if they asked any question or expressed any doubt.
The passengers only found out they were scammed after they contacted the operators of the two companies.
Many have also reported that the scammers used violence to threaten them when they refused to pay the exorbitant fare or denied their service.
“I was charged VND90,000 [US$4] for a trip from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau, which was VND10,000 [$0.44] higher than the actual fee, as one of the gang members said the company had increased the fare,” Tran Xuan Lanh, one of the victims, recounted.
The driver was extremely careless and usually scouted the stops for more passengers, Land said.
“As two passengers and I wanted to get off the bus, the impostors pulled out a metal club to intimidate and prevent us from leaving,” he added.
They only let Lanh and the others go when they spotted him trying to call police, followed by several threats that they would have their accomplice attack him.
“Hoa Mai Company has received multiple reports and complaints of passengers claiming that they were conned by the operators of the bogus buses and have submitted the reports to the Department of Transport in Vung Tau and Ho Chi Minh City,” Le Van Dao, general director of the company, told Tuoi Tre.
The firm has cooperated with competent authorities to deal with the situation for several times but no significant results have been yielded, Dao said.
Hoa Mai has tried to change the paint colors of its buses from blue to gray, along with informing their passengers of their correct license plate numbers, which begin with 72B, in an effort to prevent them from being scammed, the general director added.
There has been an increase in the number of the fraudulent buses in the last two months, said Tran Ngoc Khanh, director of Toan Thang Company.
The firm has sent several employees to take photos of the fake buses, many of whom were caught and violently forced to delete the evidence, deputy director Tran Ngoc Minh said.
The situation has been reported to Vung Tau police but has not showed any sign of improvement so far, he added.