“Imagine an app that allows you to book a cab in over 50 cities across Europe. An app that brings the driver to you and gives you the option to pay with your pennies or take an entirely cashless journey, with receipts sent straight to your inbox. An app that will keep you out of the cold and rain and into safe, reliable black cabs in London”. So goes the blurb for MyTaxi, an app widely available, and widely used, across the capital.
The problem for the app formerly known as Hailo is that the claim of “safe, reliable” isn’t necessarily true. And the reason it isn’t true is the same reason why driver and rider matching service Uber has been found to have so many less than totally reputable drivers in its ranks - the vetting of those drivers is, at best, haphazard.
Moreover, MyTaxi might look as if it is there to help the cab trade, but they are on record claiming “Our competition is the street hail”. That’s a challenging proposition for the average cabbie: join MyTaxi and find yourself working for the unofficial opposition. Worse, as TfL have pointed out, it “does not licence MyTaxi or any other company offering similar taxi services via an app or radio circuit”. Obviously, private Hire is different.
So who is responsible? “Ultimately, taxi drivers are responsible for ensuring that any journey they carry out is in accordance with the regulations that are in place and that they are subject to”. The problem for the punter is that using an app like MyTaxi may lull them into a false sense of security - because its drivers are not being properly vetted.
Take the ease with which Delroy Grant became registered with MyTaxi. This is the name of a minicab driver - or perhaps that should be former minicab driver. The twist is that Grant was convicted of “three rapes, one attempted rape, seven indecent assaults, 16 burglaries and two attempted burglaries, involving a total of 18 victims … The … offences took place in Warlingham, Shirley, Beckenham, Bromley, Addiscombe, Orpington and West Dulwich between October 1992 and May ”. He is now serving a life sentence.
So how did Delroy Grant get registered with MyTaxi? Simples. There’s his TfL licence, except … it isn’t. The date of birth, license number, start date, end date and current status are all made up. And the address - 21 Du Cane Road - is Wormwood Scrubs, as in the chokey. But all that got past MyTaxi. The vehicle was a TfL licensed Private Hire Vehicle.
And Zelo Street regulars will know all about the misuse of TfL licensed PHVs, which featured in last August’s exposé on the Metropolitan Police’s concerns over Uber.
Could it get worse? It certainly could: the fictional Delroy Grant has now, according to MyTaxi, done some work through the app - enough for him to be presented with a statement of earnings. Who knew that operating a rogue taxi business staffed by lifers down the Scrubs could be such an easy thing to set up?
That, of course, is the problem. All that is needed is for a properly dodgy character to rock up, con their way past MyTaxi, and for a punter not to notice it isn’t a real black cab with a real cabbie who turns up - and someone could be in real danger.
A journey in a real London black cab is safe. A MyTaxi journey … I wouldn’t be so sure.