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TfL confirm they have “NO POWERS TO REGULATE PRIVATE HIRE FARES” as Bolt drivers set journey prices

Updated: Nov 22, 2021

The capital’s taxi and private hire regulator Transport for London (TfL) say they have “no powers to regulate private hire fares” following the breaking news that Bolt drivers will set the fares for the first time rather than the operator.

Ride-hailing firm Bolt announced the huge change on its minicab app, a first for any UK ride hailing operator, in a bid to make the platform more attractive to drivers allowing them additional control of their business.

The changes are also aimed at addressing national concerns around driver shortages which have been leading to longer wait times, cancellations and surge pricing across all platforms.

Drivers are said to have asked Bolt for more flexibility over pricing, with many currently choosing to accept and then reject trips if a more profitable journey becomes available elsewhere, leading to a poor experience for customers.

Drivers will be able to set their own prices within a range to reflect their own preferences and local market conditions. Alternatively they can continue to use Bolt’s dynamic standard pricing. It is hoped the move will lead to a better functioning marketplace, with fewer cancellations, and better stability of earnings over a weekly period.

Bolt will be testing the new features across several cities ahead of a planned UK wide roll out before Christmas.

Since the announcement, private hire representatives App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU) were quick to share their concerns.

James Farrar, ADCU General Secretary, said: “Bolt’s new pricing model is a desperate attempt to avoid accountability for worker rights for their workforce by creating a false pretence of driver control in price setting.

“In reality, Bolt’s work allocation algorithm will quickly profile and prioritise drivers who are prepared to accept ever lower prices for their work allowing Bolt to expand market share at worker's expense. The ADCU will continue its ongoing court action against Bolt for worker status.

“This programme also raises serious safety concerns associated with a substantial workload increase as drivers must now assess and bid on work offered whilst out on the road.

“If Bolt want to proceed with this plan, they must set a price floor of £2.00 per mile and allow drivers to set prices higher that this if they wish.

“In London, regulation requires that operators like Bolt provide a price quote before a journey commences. The purpose of this regulation is to give customers certainty and security of a simple pricing model. This initiative undermines the regulatory regime and essential consumer protections.“

TfL were asked whether the change in fare pricing had been accepted by the regulator, and also whether other taxi and minicab operators can now offer similar pricing models to the public via their apps.

A TfL spokesperson responded to TaxiPoint saying: “TfL has no powers to regulate private hire fares. Our role is to ensure London private hire operators comply with the Private Hire Act and associated obligations.”


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