TfL is Investigating London's Latest Uber Rival

By Tom Pritchard on at

There are probably a few dozen methods of transport you can choose from in London, and a number of them are different apps you can use to find someone you can pay to drive you around. Stuff like Uber, Kabbee, Hailo, MyTaxi, and so on. As of a few days ago there's a new one on the scene called Taxify, and it's already potentially finding itself in hot water with Transport for London.

See if you want to be able to taxi people around London, you need to have a private hire licence - even if you're an Uber driver. Each driver needs one, and they need to work for a license 'private hire operator'. Taxify doesn't have that licence, which is why TfL is "urgently investigating" the issue.

The weird thing about it, though, is that Taxify is in total agreement. It has freely admitted that it does not have the right licencing, but that's not an issue because it has already gone out and bought a private hire firm that is already licensed until 2019. According to Taxify CEO Markus Villig. City Drive Services is the company that legally owns the contracts with its drivers. Taxify is just an app-based service that lets people book a ride.

According to Wired UK, Taxify had applied for a licence to operate in London four moths ago, but decided the process was taking too long and just bought City Drive Services instead. Engadget points out that despite CDS having the licence, both it and its drivers have to operate under the Taxify name and rules. I wouldn't be surprised if that was the thing that became a problem.

The company's approach hasn't gone down well with the unions either, and complaints are what kicked off TfL's investigation in the first place. In a letter to Transport for London and the deputy mayor for transport, GMB secretary Steve Garelick said that the decision to enter the London transport market by acquisition, without informing TfL of the licensing change, was "incompatible with the law". This led him to question whether the company was "fit and proper" to hold a licence.

Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association, claims that Taxify has chosen to operate in London despite not having licence, and that the organisation is "shocked that Taxify has the audacity to illegally operate in London while deliberately and publicly circumventing regulations by using an existing minicab company in Newham as a facade, " adding, "we share the regulators concerns that any hiring in vehicles who use that app will be uninsured".

The whole thing sounds like an absolute mess. It seems odd that Taxify thought it could acquire a company and seemingly change how it operates without informing TfL of the change, and if it is in the right then it feels more like a win based on technicality more than anything else. No doubt this is a situation that is going to rage on for quite some time, so all we regular people can do is sit back and see how it all plays out. [Wired UK via Engadget]

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