Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade has tasked relevant agencies with verifying and investigating what appears to be an act of anti-competitive behavior by traditional taxi firms toward their app-based rivals.
A number of Vinasun taxis were seen in Ho Chi Minh City bearing red-and-yellow rear bumper stickers carrying messages attacking ride-hailing apps Uber and Grab on Monday.
Similar activity was first observed in Hanoi, where messages condemning the operations of the two ride-hailing brands were adorned on local cabs.
While Vinasun has defended that the message content “did not sound wrong,” the Ho Chi Minh City transport department requested that the taxicab giant ask its drivers to remove all of the offending bumper stickers by the end of Monday.
Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Do Thang Hai also confirmed to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper the same day that his ministry would verify if the move by Vinasun was in fact a type of anti-competition and a breach of the law.
Hai said as per the law on competition, authorities could investigate the case even when the parties involved, Grab and Uber, do not file any complaint.
“Regulatory agencies will start to collect information for verification and investigation as soon as there are signs of anti-competitive practices or a breach of law,” Hai explained.
According to competition law, a business is prohibited from defaming other businesses by directly or indirectly spreading false information that may affect their operations.
“However, a careful investigation is required to determine if the [conventional] taxi firms are breaching the rule,” he noted.
Trinh Anh Tuan, head of the competition and consumer protection department, confirmed to Tuoi Tre that his agency had been tasked by the trade ministry with looking into the case.
“We are collecting information and will ask the relevant parties to report back before reaching our conclusion,” Tuan said.
|Passengers leave a Vinasun taxi adorned with the sticker|
Blame on drivers
The Ho Chi Minh City transport department held an urgent press meeting on Monday following the bumper-sticker ‘protest’ by Vinasun.
At the meeting, department deputy director Tran Quang Lam underlined that taxis traveling with the ‘anti-Uber’ messages were creating a negative impact on the city’s image, and requested that all of the stickers be removed by the end of Monday.
Vinasun managing director Ta Long Hy confirmed to Tuoi Tre that his company would follow the request.
Hy previously claimed that drivers had placed the bumper stickers on their cars of their own volition.
He reiterated this point on Monday, adding that Vinasun had called on police to investigate if some drivers had incited others to join the protest.
The executive said there were “drivers of our competitors” among the Vinasun fleet, but did not elaborate on who those rivals were.
While the Vinasun leader has consistently put the blame on individual drivers, some drivers have told Tuoi Tre that they would never be able to do so without permission from their boss.
“The sticker is the idea of the company,” one Vinasun driver told Tuoi Tre.
“We are not allowed to place anything on the company-owned cars without their consent.”