Vietnamese taxicab giant Vinasun has become the subject of controversy after its vehicles were found carrying messages attacking ride-hailing apps Uber and Grab.
People have begun spotting the messages, with thousands of Vinasun taxis rolling out on to the streets of Ho Chi Minh City with red-and-yellow rear bumper stickers.
One of the messages reads, “Uber and Grab must comply with Vietnamese law,” while the other demands that “The pilot schemes of Grab and Uber must end due to unfair business conditions.”
Speaking with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Sunday, Vinasun executive Ta Long Hy said the stickers were not an idea of the company, but a spontaneous undertaking by drivers.
Hy added that the stickers were not against Vinasun’s regulations, and that the firm would look into the issue.
|A Vinasun taxi with a bumper sticker carrying the message ‘Uber and Grab must comply with Vietnamese law’ in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Earlier this month, hundreds of cabbies in Hanoi made a similar move by placing bumper stickers on the back of their vehicles, also in opposition to the Vietnamese Ministry of Transport’s decision to allow ride-hailing apps Uber and Grab to be piloted in several areas.
The demonstration was joined by the most prominent taxi brands in the capital city.
The ride-hailing services are not considered taxi firms so they are free from requirements, both administrative and financial, set for conventional cabs.
Uber and Grab have therefore been able to offer rides for much cheaper fares than traditional taxi firms.
|A Vinasun taxi with a bumper sticker carrying the message ‘The pilot schemes of Grab and Uber must end due to unfair business conditions’ in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Protest or defamation?
According to Le Minh Hung, a professor from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Law, the naming of two rival companies in the messages, regardless of whether it was an organized demonstration by the company or not, could be seen as an act of defamation.
“The messages imply that Uber and Grab are not complying with Vietnamese laws,” Hung explained. “If Vinasun is convinced that Uber and Grab have violated their rights or hurt their business by illegal means, they should take the matter to court.”
While the messages on Hanoi taxis protested the city administration’s decision, Vinasun opted to name and shame their rivals, which is a violation of advertising laws, according to legal counselor Le Viet Hung.
“While it is true that Uber and Grab are enjoying more relaxed regulations than traditional taxicabs, it’s only because there are no existing laws to regulate them, rather than an intentional violation on their part,” he explained.
Drivers who abuse on-vehicle advertisements to defame others can be subject to VND30-40 million (US$1,300-1,700) fines, Hung added, citing a 2013 government decree.
|Two Vinasun taxis with anti-Uber and Grab bumper stickers in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre|