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CARD COMPLAINTS: Safety concerns could force mandatory card payments for all taxis in St Albans

Updated: Jan 23, 2023

All taxis operating in St Albans District may soon have to mandatorily accept contactless payments and no longer choose to be just cash-only cabs.

The proposed rule is intended to improve public safety by ensuring people are not left stranded because they do not have cash.

It comes in response to a growing number of complaints from people who were unable to get a taxi late at night because they only had a card.

Officers from St Albans City and District Council, which licenses taxis within its area, conducted an inspection of taxi activity one night in November last year.

They witnessed a woman at the City’s main rail station being refused a cab four times because she had no cash and could only pay by card. She was faced with a long walk home in the dark before she finally found a taxi that would take her.

Members of the Council’s Licensing and Regulatory Committee unanimously supported the proposal to oblige taxis to be equipped with card machines at its meeting on Tuesday 17 January.

The machines are able to take contactless payments from mobile phone apps such as Apple Pay as well as bank cards.

A four-week consultation will now be held with the final decision on whether to implement the rule being delegated to a senior Council officer.

Councillor Raj Visram, the Committee’s Chair, said after the meeting: “Many of our licensed taxis carry card machines already, but there are some that still choose not to.

“The Committee felt very strongly that we need to bring in this new rule for taxi drivers to accept contactless payments as soon as possible. It is clear we have the public behind us as there has been an increasing number of complaints about cash-only cabs.

“Since we came out of the Covid lockdowns, more people have been using their card or phone to pay for things and are no longer carrying cash.

“This new rule recognises that we live in a digital age and will also improve public safety by making sure people are not left in a potentially vulnerable situation by not having cash to pay for a taxi home.

“Our taxi drivers’ representatives were consulted about the proposal and they have accepted the need to move in this direction. It will also be good for their trade as those drivers who choose to be cash only are actually missing a lot of business.”

If the new rule comes into force, drivers unable to take contactless payments will risk losing their licence.

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