Istanbul taxi drivers are again in the spotlight for harassing customers. A Frenchwoman has filed a criminal complaint against a driver who first overcharged her and her husband, then assaulted her as she tried to stop the car.
Loubna and Djamel Bendeddouche boarded a taxi in the Şişli district of the city on Thursday evening to go to Taksim Square. Upon arriving at their destination, the unidentified driver allegedly overcharged them and when the couple refused to pay the extra amount, he locked them inside the taxi after a heated argument. After a while, he forced her husband out of the taxi and continued driving while Loubna stayed inside the taxi. Cellphone camera footage that emerged on Friday shows the driver dragging the woman out of the cab. The footage also shows the driver hurling insults at the woman who was resisting him.
The woman told the Demirören News Agency (DHA) on Friday that their trip cost $1.5 (20 TL) according to the taximeter and so they handed over $7.45 (100 TL) to the driver. When they asked for change, the driver refused, she said. “He told us the ride was taking too long because of the traffic and asked for more money. My husband gave up and got off but he pulled him and started driving. He finally stopped and took me outside. He started hitting me, pulled my hair and ripped off my coat. He broke my fingernails,” she said.
Taxi drivers in Istanbul often face complaints about their behavior towards customers. Turkish customers say drivers ignore them, especially in the city’s touristy areas, and choose “wealthy” tourists instead. Tourists, meanwhile, accuse drivers of overtaxing them.
Istanbul Municipality police and traffic wardens have stepped up their inspections of taxis after complaints piled up, particularly in the past year. The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB) announced on Thursday that more than 160,000 inspections were carried out against taxis and public transport minibuses in 2021, and a total of 208,000 dollars (2.8 million TL ) fines had been imposed on those who broke the rules. Between 2020 and December 2021, nearly 3,000 checks were carried out against taxi drivers accused of abandoning customers seeking short-haul fares and overcharging customers. In addition to fines, 176 taxi drivers had their cars temporarily confiscated for violating the rules.
Some drivers blame the workload they face, which requires them to earn as much as they can in a short time to cover their costs, for only accepting long-distance journeys. The municipality says having more taxis on the streets can be a solution for customers who cannot “find” a taxi. Yet proposals to introduce thousands more taxis to the city have been repeatedly rejected by the politically divided city assembly.