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What are the legal implications of refusing a taxi fare in England?

Taxi drivers face serious repercussions for declining fares without justifiable reasons. Consequences can span from legal proceedings and monetary penalties to the suspension or revocation of their licences.

In England, the refusal of a taxi fare without a valid excuse is governed by Section 53 of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847. According to the legislation, drivers who, without a ‘reasonable excuse’, decline to transport passengers within the city limits are committing an offence.

While drivers are permitted to reject fares that commence within a controlled district but terminate beyond it, due to the absence of a legal obligation to accept such bookings, the decision to refuse service within a controlled district must be backed by a substantial reason. The definition of a "reasonable excuse" for such refusal is ultimately determined by the courts, and trivial reasons such as the short length of the journey will not likely be accepted.

As public service providers, licensed taxi drivers have a duty to serve passengers, barring significant reasons for refusal. The Equality Act 2010 further mandates that taxi services be offered to everyone, irrespective of race, gender, age, disability, or other potentially discriminatory factors, ensuring no passenger is denied service based on protected characteristics.

Exceptions to this requirement exist, for example, if the driver feels threatened or unsafe, or if a passenger is overly intoxicated or disorderly, providing grounds for legitimately declining service.

Section 53 of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847

Penalty on driver for refusing to drive.

‘A driver of a hackney carriage standing at any of the stands for hackney carriages appointed by the commissioners, or in any street, who refuses or neglects, without reasonable excuse, to drive such carriage to any place within the prescribed distance, or the distance to be appointed by any byelaw of the commissioners, not exceeding the prescribed distance to which he is directed to drive by the person hiring or wishing to hire such carriage, shall for every such offence be liable to a penalty not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale.’


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