Inspectors from Bulgaria’s Motor Vehicle Administration and the police economic crimes squad have carried out more than 800 special checks on taxis at Sofia Airport and elsewhere, catching a number seeking to cheat customers and breaking other laws.
At Sofia Airport alone, where taxi drivers from dubious companies prey in particular on passengers arriving from western European countries – with prepared phrases learnt off pat in several languages – inspectors found an average of four cases a day of illicit taxi services.
The inspectors found a number of taxis fitted with devices to artificially “pump up” the operation of the meter above the stated tariff.
The problem of rip-off taxis in Bulgaria has endured for several years, with some using numbers and logos deceptively designed to resemble the more legitimate taxi companies. Ahead of Bulgaria taking over the rotating Presidency of the EU in the first six months of 2018, authorities warned visitors about the pitfalls of getting into the wrong kind of taxi.
Rip-off taxis also were offering to take passengers direct to Bulgaria’s winter resorts, at exorbitant tariffs.
Since January 1, the police’s economic crimes squad has issued 150 fines at Sofia Airport. Nine cars at the airport were found to have had devices to inflate the prices on the meters.
Krassimir Srebrov, director of the Motor Vehicle Administration, said that passengers who had been ripped off by taxi drivers should keep the taxi receipt, which could be used in an investigation and to punish the driver.
Srebrov said that plans were to replace and then re-link the cash registers of the taxi companies to the National Revenue Agency.
Inspectors also found that some drivers lacked documents required by law, including a certificate of psychological fitness. The law on mandatory rest periods also was being broken.