Private hire operator ordered to pay nearly £2,000 for refusing to accept a booking from a passenger
A Preston private hire operator has been ordered to pay a total of £1,779.04 for refusing to accept a booking from a passenger with a guide dog.
Private hire operator Eagle Taxis Ltd pleaded guilty at Preston Magistrates' Court to the incident that took place on 15 November 2018.
At around 4pm on the day of the incident, a visually impaired lady, telephoned the local firm to book a trip from an event she was attending at Preston North End. During the phone booking, the lady informed the company that she would be travelling with an assistance dog.
The complainant was then told by the operator that he did not have any dog friendly drivers available.
The operator refused to take note of the law, which states it is "unlawful" to refuse such a job and instead of attempting to find a car for the lady, he simply ended the conversation. As reported in the Lancashire Post, Cabinet member for planning and regulation, Councillor Peter Moss, said: “This has been a very distressing time for the complainant, and I’m pleased it was a favourable outcome at court. Booking a private hire vehicle is an act many of us take for granted, but when your independence relies on others following the law it’s something that’s always on your mind.
"Our licensing team work diligently to ensure private hire drivers and companies are fulfilling their duties and operating within the law.” When passing sentence, District Judge McCormack took into account the company’s early guilty plea and the apology put forward at the hearing.
He also recognised the complainant was trying to live her life to the fullest and found the incident very upsetting.
RNIB Regional Campaigns Officer for the North West and the complainant in this case, Ms Terri Balon, said: “It was a horrible experience, but I am glad that the company has pleaded guilty. “I and other guide dog users should have the same access to taxi services as everyone else. A guide dog is a vital mobility aid, and drivers should not be refusing us just because we have to use our dogs for support. “Under the 2010 Equalities Act it is illegal for a taxi or private hire vehicle to refuse to carry a blind or partially sighted person in a taxi because they are a guide dog user. Drivers should never refuse a passenger with a guide dog or charge them more money for a journey. Drivers with a medical condition that prevents them from assisting passengers or from carrying dogs in their vehicle have to apply for an exemption certificate.”
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