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D.C. Cab Drivers Petitioning To Extend Credit Card Deadline

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Taxi drivers Aleme Tadesse, left, and Addis Aemero, right, are collecting signatures to try and push back the deadline to install credit card machines.
Martin Di Caro
Taxi drivers Aleme Tadesse, left, and Addis Aemero, right, are collecting signatures to try and push back the deadline to install credit card machines.

As the deadline to apply for a 30-day extension looms, some Washington taxi drivers are petitioning the D.C. Taxicab Commission for more time to arrange the installation of credit card readers in their vehicles.

All District taxicabs are required to begin accepting credit card payments by the end of the month. However, if a taxi owner and a payment service provider (PSP) provide the commission written proof that they have reached an agreement and scheduled an installation, they may apply for a 30-day extension to install the technology by the end of September. The deadline to request the extension is August 15.

A group of cabbies say they expect to deliver 1,000 drivers’ signatures on a petition to the Taxicab Commission Friday, requesting that the Aug. 15 deadline be pushed back a month to give them more time to shop around among the nine PSPs approved by the commission to operate in the District.

“Most drivers, they don't know. They don’t have knowledge whatsoever of how it works, how many years they have to sign up for, and which companies have the better deal,” said Addis Aemero, who has been driving a cab for 12 years in Washington. He and fellow cabbie Aleme Tadesse, who has been driving in D.C. 11 years, say the process has been confusing and many drivers are unaware of the deadlines.

“All the drivers would like to take credit cards. They're losing business by not having credit cards. But when you have credit cards you have to make educated decision as to which company is better and cheaper,” Tadesse said.

Roughly 1,500 D.C. taxicabs are individually owned and operated, unaffiliated with any one company. About 3,000 cabs are owned by the drivers and affiliated with any of the 116 taxi companies licensed in Washington.

Aemero and Tadesse are in the latter category. They say the Aug. 15 deadline does not give them enough time to switch affiliation if they are unhappy with the PSP their company chooses to do business with. Also among their concerns are the fees some PSPs are charging to lease the credit card payment equipment, the transaction processing fees, and lengths of contracts.

“I need to shop around and get the best deal. Right now the price is confusing and the price is going up and down,” Tadesse said. “The companies also know that there is limited time, so they can wait up to the last minute when the taxicab commission pushes us to sign up.”

If the petitioners hoped for a sympathetic ear from D.C. Taxicab Commission Chairman Ron Linton, they will be disappointed. Linton said no extensions will be granted, and that any taxicab found not taking credit cards by the deadline will be impounded.

“The taxicab industry has known since May 31 what was required,” Linton said. “I do not understand what the issue is if they have already let 65 days go by, without taking the actions, without talking to the PSPs, without talking to the companies they are affiliated with.”

Owners for at least half the District's 6,500 taxis have made arrangements to install credit card readers, the commission chairman said. Polls have shown overwhelming public support for credit card acceptance in D.C. taxicabs.

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