Yangyel Lhaden 

Neta-V taxi operators dissatisfied with the Thimphu dzongkhag court’s judgment have appealed to the High Court.

The dzongkhag court ruled that Kuenphen Motors need not pay Nu 30,000 in compensation to Neta-V taxi drivers on December 29 , opposing the Competition and Consumers Affairs Authority (CCAA) decision. 

Earlier this year, 40 Neta-V taxi operators who bought electric vehicles through a government EV project  filed a case against the dealer for delivering a variant with a range of 384km instead of the advertised 401km.  

The drivers claimed that the dealer charged extra on delivery from the pre-booking price to the CCAA. Both parties, dissatisfied with the CCAA’s decision, appealed to the court. Of the 40, 35 drivers filed a case against the dealer.

The taxi drivers submitted to the court that, since they were given a vehicle with a 17-kilometer lower mileage, the dealer should pay them the 17km difference in daily compensation, calculated from the Department of Surface Transport’s intra and inter-city taxi rate. 

A taxi operator said that they were disappointed since they expected better justice since they were unsatisfied with CCAA’s decision, but the Thimphu Dzongkhag Court took away even the little they were supposed to get from the dealer.

“We are appealing because we are unsatisfied, and moreover, although the judgment states that the dealer has breached a section of CCAA’s act and regulations, he is not charged,” the taxi operator said. “The judgment says that we failed to report the case on time to CCAA, but it does not mention the timely report we submitted to PMO’s electric vehicle project office where we tried to solve the problem internally.”

The court’s judgment states that both the seller and buyer have not taken equal responsibility, and both are at fault, resulting in an equal judgment where both parties do not owe each other. 

The judgment stated that although the dealer did not provide the promised vehicle to the buyers, the customers also failed to report the complaint on time, and the dealer did not brief the buyers about the vehicle specifications upon the vehicle’s arrival, but the customers also did not inquire about it. The court ruled out the pricing issue.

Regarding the extra price charged for the vehicle by Kuenphen Motors, the dealer submitted a standard format calculation of the actual vehicle cost calculated by CCAA to the court. The calculation showed that the dealer charged less than the actual landing cost of the vehicle to its customers. The calculation also reveals that Kuenphen owes some of its customers money when selling vehicles at a flat price.

“The first lot of NETA V drivers filed a complaint only after six months but continued driving the vehicle, and furthermore, the second and third lots of NETA V drivers bought NETA V even after the induction course,” the judgment stated. “They have signed an agreement.” 

Kuenphen Motors submitted to the court that customers were made aware before they booked a vehicle, and later they also attended induction programs upon arrival of the cars. This statement was supported by the UNDP and PMO’s electric vehicle project. 

The proprietor of Kuenphen Motors, Thukten, said that since the taxi drivers have appealed to the high court, he is considering filing a criminal case against those 16 drivers among them who had forged.