Las Vegas Sun File
Tuesday, May 24, 2011 | 11:55 p.m.
CARSON CITY — Las Vegas taxis have for the past year been tacking a $3 charge onto fares paid with credit or debit cards. Now the industry wants to cement that charge into state law.
The Nevada Taxicab Authority, which regulates the industry, set the $3 transaction fee based on the cost of installing credit- and debit-card readers in cabs plus a reasonable profit. Assembly Bill 351 would establish in law the authority’s ability to tack on the fee to fares.
Credit card companies said they were unaware of the surcharge until recently, when the politically active taxicab companies began pushing for the bill’s passage.
The Assembly approved the bill earlier this session with minimal opposition. But it is beginning to draw some resistance.
“It’s exorbitant,” said Michael Hillerby, a lobbyist hired by MasterCard. “Nothing we’ve seen justifies that charge.”
William Uffelman, president and CEO of the Nevada Bankers Association, said: “There’s good public policy, then there’s self-serving efforts. This is a self-serving effort.”
The average Las Vegas cab fare last year was $13.52, according to the authority. The $3 fee works out to an average 22 percent surcharge.
Hillerby estimated that Las Vegas cab companies make $13 million annually from the charge.
Neal Tomlinson, an attorney who represents Frias Group, which owns Ace Cab and Union Cab, said he did not know how much the companies are making off the fees, although he said costs had to be recovered, and customers were paying for the convenience of using credit and debit cards.
Tomlinson said the credit card companies are OK with the charge, but don’t want it separated from the fare.
“The question is should they embed the fee and hide it, or disclose it?” Tomlinson said. “The authority decided to disclose it.”
After the bill hit a snag in the Senate Transportation Committee, Frias offered an amendment: Pass the bill, and taxi companies will pay about $1 million over the next two years to subsidize senior taxicab rides. That program would be eliminated under Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget.
“It’s a step forward in the spirit of compromise,” said Greg Ferraro, a lobbyist for Frias.
The bill is expected to be heard on the Senate floor today or Thursday.