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    Sep 03, 2015

    Limo drivers sued for refusing 'illegal' service

    A LIMOUSINE company which services high-net-worth and VIP customers is suing a number of its chauffeurs for terminating their contracts with the firm.

    Wolero - set up by former employees of defunct cab operator Smart Taxis - rents out its fleet of about 130 Mercedes and Audis to private hirers who are called upon to provide chauffeur services, mostly to bankers and their private clients.

    The hirers are promised 110 trips a month, at $35 each. The sum at the end of the month will then offset the rental charge for the vehicle.

    However, alerted by recent reports on limo services provided by taxi-app companies, a few Wolero hirers decided to check with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) if what they were doing was legal.

    In response, LTA said in a letter to a driver that "individual parties are not allowed to lease/rent private hire cars from car rental or limousine service companies to convey members of the public on hire and reward terms".

    The authority advised Wolero hirers "to stop your practice and return the vehicles" to the company.

    This is what some of them did and, in response, the company sued them for cutting short their three-year contracts.

    Samsuri Hussain, 37, a former cabby who faces a $104,000 suit, said the company has not been able to deliver 110 jobs a month.

    "I've not been making money for the last eight months," he said. "All of us are just trying to make a living. To have them treat us this way is uncalled for."

    Speaking on behalf of 20 to 30 drivers who want to quit because of LTA's advice, but are afraid of being sued, Mr Samsuri said: "In contract law, if a practice leads you to breaking the law, then the contract is void."

    He said that despite being shown LTA's response, Wolero directors "are adamant that their practice is not illegal".

    Wolero managing director Johannes van Roosmalen told The Straits Times: "The LTA is wrong. There is no such law." And if there was such a law, he said "it should be amended to give the market some clarity".

    The managing director said: "In business, there are people who can make it, and people who can't make it.

    "People who can't make it will find excuses to quit. It becomes an unpleasant situation, but it's difficult to avoid."

    He claimed that the company was able to assign 110 jobs a month most of the time, but there were instances when a hirer-driver turns down jobs because the timings were inconvenient.

    When asked if the company promised its hirers flexible hours, he retorted: "How can a taxi driver make money with flexible hours?"

    Mr van Roosmalen denied that the company was high-handed in suing its hirers. "We're difficult only if they are difficult to us," he said.