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PAYMENT DEVICES: Should the industry be allowed to evolve alongside new technology?

A rising number of taxi licensing authorities are mandating the use of card payments, making it a condition of fitness to offer the modern-day service. However, as with anything involving technology, problems can occur. These could range from equipment faults, network coverage dropping or bad coverage.

Transport for London (TfL) were the first authority to introduce mandated card payment in the industry. As part of licensing requirements, all licensed taxis must be fitted with a TfL approved card payment device installed in the passenger compartment which has the facility to produce a printed receipt upon request by the passenger.

Backup or handheld payment devices do not meet the licensing requirements set by TfL and are considered unapproved devices. Any taxi found not complying with the requirement will be issued with an unfit notice, which will remain in place until the requirement is fulfilled and the vehicle is presented for inspection. A driver found to be using any unapproved device may also have their fitness to be licensed reviewed.

Despite the availability of safe low-cost card payment devices on the market and adopted by other industries, taxi drivers are not permitted to offer an alternative card payment device. Instead, when an issue arises, TfL asks drivers to ask the passenger to try their payment card again. If the issue persists, the driver is then instructed to ask the passenger whether they have another payment card or cash to pay for the fare. If not, the driver should offer to take the passenger to the nearest cashpoint. If a passenger refuses to pay and an amicable agreement cannot be found, drivers should then consider contacting the police.

This policy has come under intense scrutiny, with many in the industry asking why the regulator chooses how a self-employed worker should be receiving payment. Passengers want to see familiarity of device, but should the taxi driver not be allowed to offer a safer and more convenient alternative when problems arise?

Payment technology is moving fast. Can the taxi industry and authorities keep up with it?


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