Czech mayor taken for a ride

Tired of hearing reports of visitors paying grossly inflated prices for taxi rides in his city, the mayor of Prague disguised himself as an Italian visitor — and promptly unmasked a driver whose meter ran at more than six times the normal rate, a newspaper said on Friday.

The daily Dnes, which has been waging a campaign against price gouging, said it had persuaded mayor Pavel Bem to dye his hair black, slick it back and put on a pair of expensive sunglasses before jumping into the nearest city taxi.

Asking for a short ride in Prague’s old town, the mayor found himself in a vehicle with a rigged meter, being charged the equivalent of €26 (R205) for a trip that should normally have cost only €4,30 (R26).

“Disguised the way I was, I was certainly expecting to be charged a higher price, but not to such an outrageous extent,” Bem told the newspaper.

“The driver deserves to be severely punished — I am putting the affair in the hands of officials at city hall,” he said, adding that the over-entreprising cabbie could face a fine of almost ”33 000 euros (R199 000) and that in the event of him repeating the offence, he could lose his permit.

The mayor said he also intends to boost the number of town-hall staff devoted to rooting out such price gouging, with some of them being asked to pretend to be tourists.

Prague is one of the most popular destinations in eastern Europe, with about four million tourists a year. — AFP

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