DENVER (CBS4) – Some area cab drivers continue to knowingly overcharge passengers, a situation one cab company owner calls “very sad.”

“It’s very damaging to the brand,” said Robert McBride, the owner of Metro Taxi.

(credit: CBS)

The gouging has come on trips between Denver International Airport and downtown Denver. According to state regulations, cab drivers are only allowed to charge a flat fee for that trip and should not run their meters.

The flat fee rate for the DIA to downtown run is $55.57 including the airport’s “access fee.”

But when Dawn Welch landed in Denver on April 24 for a conference, the cab driver charged her $76 for the trip from DIA to her downtown hotel, an overcharge of 38%.

Dawn Welch (credit: CBS)

“It was disappointing. Our first time in Denver and that’s our first experience,” said Welch.

Being a visitor to Denver, she did not know of the flat rate rule which is actually posted inside cabs. On top of the $76 fare, she gave her driver an $11 tip meaning the $55.57 fare actually ended up at $87.40.

Welch said she was tired from her flight to Denver and didn’t notice any signage in the cab about flat rate fares.

(credit: CBS)

On May 6, a CBS4 investigative team staked out a downtown Denver hotel and interviewed passengers arriving from the airport. One man arriving for a conference was charged $70 for the cab ride from DIA to his hotel, a 27% overcharge. When CBS4 approached the driver from Metro Cab he indicated he knew he had gouged his passenger.

“You know the rules?” the driver was asked.

“Yes I do,” he responded. The driver refused to answer other questions and left as quickly as he could.

Robert McBride, the owner of Metro Cab, said as soon as he learned of the incident, the driver was barred from driving for Metro.

“He’s not allowed to drive for us,” said McBride. “It’s very sad, very damaging to the brand.”

(credit: CBS)

McBride emphasized the flat fare rules are posted on the inside of cabs and said his company was also working on a pamphlet that would be handed to airport cab customers specifying how much they were supposed to be charged for flat fare trips.

More than a year ago, CBS4 found numerous cases of cab drivers disregarding the flat fare rules and overcharging customers traveling between the airport and downtown. The Public Utilities Commission can fine cab companies $275 if a driver is caught overcharging up to $25.

If a driver is caught overcharging up to $50, the fine for the company can go up to $550.

But in February and March of this year, the Public Utilities Commission was unable to even issue financial penalties to cab companies. Terry Bote, External Affairs Manager for the PUC, told CBS4, ”This was a temporary situation. We temporarily curtailed the issuance of civil penalties in our transportation section for two months to prevent overspending our legal services budget.”

(credit: CBS)

Bote said even though his agency did not levy any fines during those months, they still investigated complaints, pursued refunds where appropriate and brought driver issues to the attention of company managers.

Bote said in April, the PUC resumed imposing financial penalties.

Dawn Welch said consumers need to be protected from the gouging revealed by CBS4.

“I just think it’s a shame, it’s a shame. It gets out there and doesn’t leave a good view of the city.”

Brian Maass

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