Examining surge charges in TNVS fare


With the incessant problem of traffic jams, even car owners have been opting to take the much more convenient car services offered by transport network companies (TNC). In the Philippines, we do not have as many choices as they do in other countries as there are not many TNCs, leaving the commuters vulnerable to fare hikes. But if one wants convenience, he/she does not have a choice but to book a ride despite the surprising high surge fees.

Recently however, these “surprise surges” have been stirring a controversy. As commuters have noticed the additional fees in their fares, the group of volunteer lawyers, Lawyers for Commuters Safety and Protection (LCSP), have already raised the issue of how fees are actually computed.

According to the new tariff released by the Land Transportation Franchise Regulatory Board (LTFRB), this is what the fare charge must be based on for transport network vehicle services (TNVS) as simplified by the LCSP:

  1. Flagdown:
    TNVS sedan up to ₱40
    TNVS premium up to ₱50
    TNVS hatchback up to ₱30

  2. Fare per kilometer
    TNVS sedan ₱15
    TNVS premium ₱18
    TNVS hatchback ₱13

  3. Fare per minute of travel - ₱2

  4. Surge (on kilometer and time)- multiply by 2 in all classes of TNVS

For example, you’re a passenger who booked a sedan and the distance to the destination is 10 kilometers and the time of travel due to traffic is 60 minutes. Let’s apply the LTFRB tariff:

Flagdown - ₱40

Per kilometer (10km x ₱15) - ₱150

Per minute of travel (60 mins x ₱2) - ₱120

Surge (computed as follows: total amount per kilometer plus total amount per minute x 2). Hence, the total is ₱150 + ₱120 = ₱270. Surge comes in, meaning you have to multiply this number by two, giving your fare of ₱540.

Do not forget to add the flag down rate of ₱40 for a sum total of ₱580.

This computation can be confusing and tedious especially if you’re a passenger who just wants to get to your destination quickly, so you just usually shrug off the details and just pay whatever you are charged. As transport network companies claim that surges are added when there are many passengers and a low supply of vehicles along with other reasons and explanations, there are still several issues with transparency and regulation in the eyes of our legal volunteers.

When you book a TNVS at 4 a.m. or 4 p.m., is there a surge? Isn't there a supposedly fixed ₱2 fare per minute? And if the justification is that there is little supply for passengers, when did buses, jeeps, UV express and taxis become enough for passengers? But these forms of transport do not have surge fares.
Atty. Ariel Inton of the LCSP says the LTFRB has to set clear guidelines when the fare surge should be allowed. “Surge must not be perpetual 24 hours a day. As the regulatory body, LTFRB needs to check exactly what moment surge charges are acceptable to implement. This is where the LTFRB should have a clear policy and not the TNC. Should it only be during rush hour? Should it be when the traffic is heavy? And if the travel is easy, is the surge still necessary when there is per minute of travel time?”

Apparently, as per Atty. Inton, no clear cut guidelines were set by the LTFRB when it allowed the surge charges, leaving the imposition to the TNCs the discretion when and how surge charges are imposed. For the sake of transparency, LTFRB must make it clear why the fare, which has recently been higher than in the past, is being charged. And the transport network companies must follow this because the Memorandum Circular of the LTFRB which states:

“In the imposition of the above fare rates, grantees of CPCs to operate TNVS shall comply with the rules and regulations of the Board, provisions of the Public Service Law as amended and also the requirements for public transport services.”

As the holiday rush is fast approaching with crowds expected to flock to malls and other establishments, traffic all over the metro in particular, is likewise expected to worsen in the coming weeks. It is high time to clearly identify the base fares and additional charges and hopefully, help the commuters lessen their financial ordeals.

“We appeal to LTFRB to protect the passengers from abuse of fare surges by setting forth clear guidelines on fare surges, and as the regulatory body, it should set the guidelines on fare surges,” says Atty. Inton as he and the hundreds of thousands of daily public commuters in Metro Manila alone, urge the LTFRB to hasten a hearing which will finally unravel the “mystery” of surges and fare hikes and surprises.