Didi incident shows need for more supervision of China’s sharing economy: expert

By Chen Qingqing Source:Global Times Published: 2018/8/27 23:03:39

Regulators urged to play more active role in supervising sharing economy

A Chinese resident uses the app of Didi on smartphones in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province. File photo: IC

Domestic public outrage intensified, with some calling for a boycott of China's car-hailing service Didi Chuxing, after two recent murder cases. Authorities and media reports harshly criticized the company for significant management loopholes and safety risks.

Chinese industry experts also called for tighter regulations on the blooming sharing economy and said internet companies could not chase earnings growth without an ethical bottom-line.

Didi suspended its Hitch service on Sunday after the second passenger in three months was killed by a Didi Chuxing driver. Two senior managers of the company were removed from their posts, including one in charge of Hitch services.

The incidents showed that online platforms like Didi pay attention to growth while neglecting safety issues, said a post published on MOT's website. Didi showed no awareness of managing in line with the law, the authority said. In a separate post, Didi was urged to fix "deadly loopholes," and said that it could not tolerate the company's disregard for safety and social responsibility.

A 20-year-old woman took a Didi Hitch service car on Friday afternoon in Yueqing, East China's Zhejiang Province. She sent an SOS message around 2 pm to her friends before losing contact. The information of the murder suspect - a 27-year-old Didi driver - was forwarded to the local police about four hours later.

The incident came three months after a 21-year-old female flight attendant was fatally stabbed during her private car hailing service in May in Zhengzhou, capital city of Central China's Henan Province.

Public outrage spread online on Monday. Many Chinese netizens blamed Didi for its slow and inefficient procedures that delayed police action. Others shared unpleasant experiences with Didi's services and called for a boycott.

The Global Times reached out to a dozen regular Didi users on Monday, but only two said they would delete the app after these incidents. "Despite of all these horrifying murder cases, I won't delete it because I don't have many other choices," a Beijing resident surnamed Yuan told the Global Times.

Didi, which is also the most valuable unicorn, became too big to fail in recent years. The active user rate of Didi stood at 63 percent from 2017 to 2018, ranking first among car-hailing services platforms ahead of such companies as Shouqi Limousine & Chauffeur or UCAR, whose active rates only reached 8.5 percent and 7.2 percent, respectively, according to a report released by industry consultancy iiMedia.

Didi's investors include some major domestic and foreign technology firms including Tencent, Alibaba and Apple.

The recent incidents involving Didi reflected problems with the sharing economy. "The entry level for drivers is very low. Companies lack the ability to anticipate security risks and their emergency measures need to be improved," Shen Lijun, director of Urban Think Do Tank, told the Global Times.

And Didi's inefficient customer services and lack of an established communication system with the police contributed to the two murders, he said.

However, Didi is not the only one to blame, experts noted. With the rising sharing economy and growing online platforms offering services such as car-hailing and food delivery, authorities should play more significant roles in supervising these companies' behavior, noted Li Yi, a senior research fellow at the Internet Research Center under the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

"When fatal incidents happen, authorities follow up on the cases, which is not a fundamental solution," he said, noting that outdated regulations governing the taxi industry don't really cover the new industries. 

In addition, the alleged monopoly of Didi also hinders the growth of car-hailing industry, and more market players are needed for better services, Li added.

In Beijing, 33,5000 taxi are now equipped with the BeiDou navigation system, or 50 percent of the total number of city taxis, media reported on Monday. With the help of its navigation technology, BeiDou could share data with MOT and online car-hailing platforms and monitor vehicles in real time, offering services such as location tracking, trajectory request, alarm alert and data analysis.

Newspaper headline: Didi slammed for management defects


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