November 19, 2009
If you have been ripped off by a London taxicab or a private minicab, you can take action.
Who can you complain to?
Registered London Taxicabs
Public Carriage Office (PCO): 15 Penton Street, London N1 9PU (Tel: 020 7230 1631(complaints); 020 7833 0996 (lost property)) Email: email@example.com
You should try to note down the licence number, vehicle registration number and driver’s badge number if at all possible. The licence number is displayed on a white enamel plate inside the passenger compartment and also on the exterior of the vehicle’s boot lid. The driver is required to wear a clearly visible “badge number” while he/she is working.
If you have ordered a licenced taxicab, you should first complain to the radio circuit company involved, particularly if the complaint is about over-charging. If you are still dissatisfied refer your complaint to the PCO. Complaints about abusive behaviour, lack of knowledge or failure to complete a hiring should always be reported to the PCO.
The PCO promises to provide a response to complaints against licenced taxi drivers within 30 working days of receipt, or else send a letter explaining the cause of the delay and giving a date for a full reply.
Private minicabs in London
The Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 provides for the regulation of private hire operators, vehicles and drivers in London for the first time (an estimated 40,000 drivers and vehicles). The PCO will be the licencing and monitoring authority. A public consultation about driver and vehicle licencing is currently underway and licencing procedures are due to be completed by December 2001. Approved vehicles should begin displaying licence plates or discs after February 2002.
Private minicabs in the rest of the UK
Private hire operators, vehicles and drivers have to be licenced with their local authority, if it has adopted relevant legislation (95% of councils have done so). Complain to the minicab operator in the first instance. If you are still dissatisfied contact your local authority for assistance (contact details in the telephone directory).
What grounds do you have to complain?
The PCO is responsible for licencing and regulating the 19,500 licenced taxis and 23,000 licenced taxi drivers in the metropolitan police district and the City of London. It also administers lost property in taxis and the appointment of cab ranks in the metropolitan police district.
You can complain if a taxi driver’s actions contravene the conditions of their licencing. A licenced London taxi driver must:
- be above 21 years old
- have disclosed all criminal convictions (not all convictions preclude an applicant from gaining the licence – it depends what the conviction was for)
- be mentally and physically fit
- have a thorough knowledge of London
- abusive or unacceptable behaviour
- failure to complete a hiring
- taking a devious route
- the mechanical condition and general fabric of the vehicle, including excessive emissions of smoke
be able to drive a taxi competently and safely Complaints might also include matters such as:
London taxi drivers, unless they have a reasonable excuse, must accept a hiring of up to six miles (20 miles from Heathrow), providing the destination is within the metropolitan police district. Any hiring which begins and ends in the metropolitan police district and City of London must be calculated on the taxi meter. Fares for hirings which take a driver outside this area must be negotiated in advance. You are not legally entitled to a receipt for a taxi journey.
A significant number of complaints relating to licenced taxis are in fact criminal offences, for example: demanding more than the proper fare; refusing fares; restrictions on where taxis may ply for hire; refusal to carry a reasonable quantity of luggage and so on. However, many of these are covered by the so called ‘seven-day process’ rule, which requires papers to be served at court within seven days of the alleged offence. This effectively prevents most of these offences ever coming to court. Failure to take court action where it might have been appropriate does not affect the PCO complaints procedure.
It is illegal for minicabs to ply for trade.
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 makes it a statutory requirement for licenced taxi drivers to carry guide, hearing and certain other assistance dogs accompanying disabled people, and to do so without any additional charge. The dog must be allowed to remain with the passenger. All licenced London taxis should be accessible to wheelchair users.
Will you get a fair hearing?
The PCO is a branch of TfL, part of the GLA. The GLA reports to the mayor of London who is also chair of TfL’s board. It has independent statutory responsibility for the licencing and regulation of London taxis, and is not an employer or operator.
What will happen if you’re successful?
The PCO has no power to award compensation. However, every complaint received is noted on the driver’s individual record, which is then considered as a whole when complaints are made. The PCO will warn drivers when it sees fit, and has the power to suspend, limit the use of, or revoke a driver’s taxi licence.
Anything else I can do?
You can contact the London Transport Users Committee: Clements House, 14-18 Gresham Street, London EC2V 7PR (Tel: 020 7505 9000; Fax: 020 7505 9003) It considers representations about services and facilities operated, procured or licenced by TfL, if the user does not believe their complaint has been satisfactorily remedied by the service provider.
Minicab journeys must be pre-booked, and so are subject to the law of contract. If you fail to prosecute under the seven-day process you may also be able to bring a civil action for compensation.