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HANDLING TAXI PASSENGER COMPLAINTS: Not everything is black and white as proven in a recent case

As a cab driver, it’s never a nice experience to receive a letter from TfL, informing you that a member of the public has made a complaint about you. It’s important to note that with any complaint, just because TfL send you the letter informing you of one made against you, it does not necessarily mean that they think you are guilty.

On some occasions, TfL send what’s called an ‘Advisory Notice’, which is sent purely because, under their rules, the regulator must inform a driver of any complaint made against them, even if they have no intention of doing anything about it and don’t believe the driver did anything wrong. You don’t need to reply to these notices and no action will be taken against you. I do however often help drivers reply to these, if they are upset, and rightly so, about an unjustified complaint or one full of lies, as I know people like to set the record straight!

A recent case

It’s almost too easy for a passenger to make a complaint nowadays. All they have to do is fill out an online form and they are free to say whatever they want. Sadly, in some cases, they lie at will, with absolutely no consequences to themselves. This was

the case recently, when a member of ours came into my office looking for help with a complaint, which accused him of ripping off a customer, on a job from Paddington to Stansted. You can see what the passenger alleged in the letter above.

Some members come in quite upset on receiving a complaint, but this was not the case this time. Our member was very calm. Turns out there was a very good reason for that. I asked him what happened. He smiled and said “have a listen yourself.” It turns out that he had a dash cam in his cab that also has a voice recorder system. He played the recording to me. The conversation I heard went something like the below.

For context, our member was sitting at the lights on Bishop’s Bridge, waiting to turn left into Paddington, when he was hailed by a passenger looking flustered, wheeling a suitcase. This was on one of the train strike days.

Passenger: You wouldn’t go to Stansted Airport, would you?

Member: Yes, that will be ok.

Passenger: Do you know roughly how much it will cost?

Member: Provides an estimated range of anywhere between two figures. (I think most reading this will know the estimate that a cabbie would give for that cab ride, so I don’t see any reason to report it, but his estimate was exactly right by my accounting).

Passenger: Repeats the quoted figures out loud and replies Yes.

(Door alarms go off and then we hear the door shut.)

Member: Are you happy to go?

Passenger: Let’s go.

That was that, until the passenger started complaining, as they neared the airport. Our member told him that he gave him an idea of what the price would likely be when he got in the cab and the final price was within that range. This cut noNice with the customer, who claimed the driver never gave him that estimate. The cabbie then even offered to knock £25 off the fare. The passenger refused this and insisted he would pay the metered fare, which was confusing for the member given that he seemed unhappy.

The accusations that the driver was rude and aggressive are also denied and clearly the complainant has been proven to be a liar on everything else. As you can see in the complaint, they also threw in the bit about using Uber, which is par for the course when people complain about a cabbie these days.

Reputations ruined

I think that what clearly happened here, is that this passenger was having a bad day. He couldn’t catch a train and presumably needed to get to Stansted urgently, so he took a cab, knowing that a journey of that length would likely be quite pricey. He is now looking for a way to get his money back and sniffing around for a refund. It mattered nothing to him how his lies could affect our member’s good name and reputation.

I sent a stinging reply to TfL on behalf of our member, asking that they listen to the voice recording and that they insist that the passenger sends a letter of apology. I have now heard back. TfL agree that the driver clearly did nothing wrong, and that the passenger should apologise, but apparently because of GDPR they can not share any contact details to facilitate such an apology, so our member has to take it on the chin.

If you get a complaint and you don’t think it is justified, please give me a call and I can try to help. This story also shows how having a dash cam or some other recording device can pay off, and not just in cheaper insurance premiums, definitely something to consider!


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