The Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association (LTDA) has recently reported an increase in inquiries from its members regarding the rules and regulations surrounding the addition of booking fees for app-based taxi jobs.
Taxi drivers are seeking clarification on whether they can still add a booking fee of £2 on the meter if the fare is paid in the cab.
The confusion among drivers has been attributed to the ongoing fare and tariff consultation by Transport for London (TfL), which mentions the possibility of increasing the charge for journeys booked through phone, online, or app services. This has led to drivers questioning the circumstances under which the "Booked Taxi Extra Charge" can be added to the metered fare.
Anthony Street, Executive at Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), said via TAXI Newspaper: “We are receiving calls from members asking about the rules on adding booking fees for app jobs. Drivers want to know if they can still add a booking fee of £2.00 on the meter if the fare is paid in the cab. The current TfL fare and tariffs consultation may have encouraged drivers to ask this question as it mentions "an additional charge for journeys which are booked by phone, online or an app" and is seeking views on whether this charge should be increased, likely due to pressure from the apps themselves.
“Last year, Transport for London (TfL) consulted on removing the requirement for the so-called 'Booked Taxi Extra Charge' to be added to the taxi meter and the change was approved by the TfL Finance Committee. As TfL explained at the time, the booked taxi extra charged "allows for up to £2.00 to be added to taxi fares for a taxi hiring arranged by telephone, mobile phone, smart phone, mobile application, any application software and by use of the internet. The extra charge was introduced originally to help cover the arrangement costs associated with hirings being taken via a booking service." In the early days, it was essentially used to support the overheads of the radio circuits.
“Some of you will also remember the phone booking facilities at taxi ranks and if passengers had used this service, the driver could add £2.00 on the meter when they accepted a booking.
“The decision to make this change was made on the basis that it would allow for more flexibility in how extras for bookings are taken and how much is charged. For example, apps could add these upfront to jobs booked and paid for on the app. Adding extras on the meter also limited the amount that could be added, as extras can only be added in 40p increments so removing this requirement leaves booking providers with more options.
“The problem is that now there seems to be some confusion over when the booked taxi extra can still be added to the meter. The change made in 2022, simply means that it no longer HAS TO BE added via the taximeter, meaning it can be collected via other means, but that doesn't mean that it can't be added on the meter where appropriate.
“What we do know is that it can only be charged once, so we need to make sure passengers aren't being unfairly charged twice for the privilege of booking a cab.
“Cabbies either seem to love the apps or hate them. They've now been around for many years and before that as I've already said, it was the radio circuits, so they aren't really anything new, but some drivers have become reliant on them to provide booked jobs that are very popular and convenient for the consumer. The apps do charge drivers a percentage to benefit from these pre-booked jobs, but it's just become normal practice and if drivers want to work them, then they choose to accept the terms and conditions.
“I have my own thoughts on this, and I've seen many drivers giving their views on social media and Whatsapp groups.
“Whether or not you agree with the way the apps apply charges to passengers (I'm sure you will all have an opinion), remember again you've signed up to their terms and conditions and it's a choice you have to make. My personal opinion is that these apps are a business - out there to earn as much money as possible so presumably they are now charging their customers the booking fee directly, but drivers will need to confirm that this is the case and what you are expected to do by the app provider you have signed up to.
“I have also seen some members being informed by TfL about a complaint made against them in relation to adding the booking fee. We have responded to TfL on their behalf. 'The question is why some passengers have made such a complaint, is the passenger aware that the £2.00 booking fee has previously been paid at the time the booking and was taken by the app provider and feel they have been overcharged or do they just not understand the system?
“Remember the extra can only be charged once, so if the charge has been added at the point of booking, it cannot be added to the metered fare, and you need to find out from your app how their system works to make sure you are doing the right thing.”