Illegal Taxi Services Facilitated by Agoda, Third Foreign Online Travel Agency Revealed

Agoda website screenshot

It has been discovered that Agoda, a travel booking site operated by Agoda Company, is also facilitating the arrangement of illegal passenger transportation known as ‘white taxis’ in Japan.

This revelation marks the third instance among foreign online travel agencies (OTA) where the arrangement of ‘white taxis’ has come to light, following Booking.com and Klook.

Agoda mobile app interface

Agoda Company is an online travel agency under the umbrella of Booking Holdings, which operates Booking.com, and is headquartered in Singapore. For fact-checking, the editorial department of this magazine has sent questions to Mr. Allen Parker of Parthenon Japan, the public relations representative for Agoda, on two separate occasions with a set deadline. However, we have not received any response, let alone an answer to our inquiries.

Screenshot of the vehicle selection on Agoda

The transportation request was made for a service provided by ‘Elife Limo’. Elife Limo also appears in the airport transfer taxi search on Booking.com, and although there is no Japanese notation when searched, their official site (https://elifelimo.com/) suggests that they operate in Japan as well.

White taxi with a beginner driver mark

However, the car that awaited us at the airport booked through Agoda also had a white number plate, and even displayed a beginner driver mark. In legal passenger transportation or overseas ride-sharing services, it is almost impossible for a novice driver to be employed in such a position. It was a ride where safety concerns could not be ignored.

Conversing with the driver

Drivers arranged by all three companies that have been identified to facilitate ‘white taxis’ seemed to be native speakers of foreign languages, judging by the conversations. Particularly, the driver allocated by Agoda’s Elife Limo did not seem to be proficient in Japanese; the message exchange for setting up the meeting was in Chinese or English, and there was little conversation had in the car.

As the movement towards the legalization of ride-sharing is gaining momentum, it is feared that further confusion may ensue after the ride-share becomes legal if the regulatory authorities do not strictly clamp down on such apparently illegal services. Thus, we need to pay close attention to future developments.

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This article was generated using automatic translation by GPT-4 API.
The translation may not be accurate.