Booking.com Continues to Send Customers to Suspicious Travel Company Despite Unlicensed ‘White Taxi’ Allegations

Image of a car

It has been revealed through an investigation by this magazine that Booking.com, a major travel booking service, has mediated the arrangement of unlicensed ‘white taxis’ for passenger transport, which is illegal without permission, and has refunded 25% of the fare.

A customer service representative for Booking.com Taxi, which provides car hire services within Booking.com Group, responded in English to complaints sent in Japanese via a form about a ‘white taxi’ being arranged, asking ‘Why would you complain about the color of a taxi? We would like to know the reason,’ and demanded a detailed explanation. The email emphasized that they are merely an intermediary agent.

After sending a photo of the vehicle taken along with a URL to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism’s website written in English, I was unexpectedly refunded 2,842 yen, which is 25% of the fare paid, and received an email stating that ‘this dispute has been resolved.’ When asked for a reason, the refund was attributed to the actions of the driver who provided the illegal vehicle with a ‘white number plate.’

Booking.com Taxi is a company based in England or Wales, therefore users fall outside the scope of Japan’s Travel Service Act. However, when pointed out that they might be subject to consumer protection laws, they replied that ‘consumer laws fall within the jurisdiction of the government and are beyond our support range,’ emphasizing yet again that they are an intermediary platform.

Screenshot of booking website

As of the morning of December 19th, searching on Booking.com no longer displays Tianjin OUYA Automobile Rental Service, which had provided a ‘white taxi,’ but BB-Trip, which has been pointed out by this magazine for arranging ‘white taxis,’ now appears on Klook and KKday. The checking function seems to have collapsed.

The Japan Tourism Agency plans to name and shame foreign-owned online travel agencies that do not address the illegal arrangement of ‘white taxis.’ So far, no comment has been obtained from the spokesperson of Booking.com.

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The translation may not be accurate.