Taxi and private hire car fares and the control of fares:
Question 12. Would it be appropriate for taxis and private hire cars to be required to have a taximeter?
This is an issue of current concern. Modern technology now enables "surge pricing" when the use of smart apps can lead to an increase in fares at times of peak demand where operators do not have taximeters fitted in their vehicles.
Forty four responded "yes" and seventeen responded "no" to this question. The remaining respondents did not provide a response to the question or were unclear. Opposition was strongest from the Local Authorities. The support was strongest from the Trade Organisations and the Individuals responding who all said "yes".
Yes - it would be appropriate for taxis and private hire cars to be required to have a taximeter:
Just two Local Authorities were in favour of private hire cars being required to have taxi meters giving reasons centred around the need to avoid "surge pricing" at times of peak demand and provide certainty of fares for passengers.
West Lothian Councilcommented: "The vast majority of PHCs in West Lothian already have meters and these make it clear to the public what the charges are. The main source of complaints regarding overcharging arise when meters are not used during cross border hires. The public should be protected from overcharging by all fares requiring to be the metered fare or less".
The Trade Organisations who were in favour were concerned about surge pricing and providing clarity over fares.
Respondents from the taxi trade stressed the advantage of the objective consultation process used for the setting of taxi fares.
The Individuals who were all in favour focussed on the need to prevent surge pricing.
Three Disability and Accessibility Organisations responded in favour and included the suggestion taximeters help to provide all customers, including disabled people, with clear, consistent and transparent pricing.
No - it would not be appropriate for taxis and private hire cars to be required to have a taximeter:
A majority of Local Authorities were opposed to private hire cars being required to have taxi meters and gave a variety of reasons. These focussed on the adverse cost impact that this would have on small operators potentially reducing the service provided in rural areas. This concern was also shared by one of the Disability and Accessibility Organisations.
Local Authorities expressed concern regarding the impact on contract work undertaken on their behalf. Given that many private hire cars operate under fixed price contracts, they were concerned that the fitting of a taxi meter would be an unnecessary expense with no real benefit.
The Trade Organisations who were against taxis and private hire cars being required to have taximeters gave a variety of reasons including the advantage of choice for the public. One company suggested that the distinction between private hire cars and taxis gave the public a good choice as the market would ultimately determine fares in the private hire car sector.
A recent entrant to the private hire trade suggested requiring all private hire cars to have meters would reduce customer choice, the number of vehicles and rides available and damage the economy. They also suggested there were not enough taxis available at peak times in some cities. They argued they were thus providing an essential service in the interest of public safety as this reduced the risk of drinking and driving.
Also one of the Disability and Accessibility Organisations suggested it is likely that technology has moved on from the current type of taximeters. They suggested new technology should be able to facilitate customer choice and negotiations before the journey begins and record the quotation given prior to a booking being agreed.
Of the Miscellaneous Organisations against taxis and private hire cars being required to have taximeters the Scottish Council for Development and Industry stated as follows: "Introducing regulation requirements for all taxis and private hires to have a taximeter would not be appropriate. There is concern over 'surge pricing'. When there is mismatch of supply and demand, surge pricing helps clear the market at peak times and through apps customers are made aware if pricing is peaking, this gives the choice for people to book a taxi or private hire at high price or use another mode of transport. Introducing mandatory taximeters and limiting fares would limit the choice for customer and potentially wipe out innovation, which is bad for the industry, drivers and customers. Another option which could be explored by the Scottish Government is to introduce new regulation which would encourage taxi and private hire companies to develop their mobile software. Mobile software can allow companies to easily predict and track the route of journey which could be a more effective pricing model than taximeters."
Another of the Miscellaneous Organisations also suggested that in the future an electronic, server based and interactive system could replace the current meters.
Question 13. Should the Scottish Government impose the requirement of a taximeter on all taxis and private hire cars?
The majority of respondents supported the Scottish Government imposing a requirement for a taximeter on all taxis and private hire cars. Forty responded "yes" and twenty two responded "no" to this question. The remaining respondents did not provide a response to the question or were unclear.
The support was strongest from Individuals responding who all said "yes" apart from one. Opposition was strongest from the Local Authorities and a majority of the Trade Organisations were also opposed.
Yes - the Scottish Government should impose the requirement of a taximeter on all taxis and private hire cars:
Only two of the Local Authorities responding supported this proposal.
A minority of the Trade Organisations suggested this proposal would give the public the added assurance of a known pricing regime prior to commencing the journey. And most of the taxi organisations also supported this proposal.
The strong majority of Individuals in favour of the proposal gave a variety of reasons centred around the need for passengers to know how their fare will be calculated in advance and to prevent the situation where apps can be manipulated to give the passenger an unexpected increase in fare.
One of the Disability and Accessibility Organisations in favour still qualified this response by suggesting rural areas should be exempt.
No - the Scottish Government should not impose the requirement of a taximeter on all taxis and private hire cars:
The majority of Local Authorities were opposed to the proposal and gave a variety of reasons. Some referred to answers to previous questions. Others suggested it was preferable that the local authorities were able to determine this at a local level.
East Lothian Councilcommented: "it would be better for individual authorities to deal with such matters at their own discretion as and when a problem is identified, rather than having the matter enforced nationally which would impact on areas where this is not and may never have been a problem".
The majority of Trade Organisations (excluding the taxi trade) were opposed to the proposal. And Uber suggested: "Mandating a taximeter will remove the ability for firms to compete on either the level of price or the way in which they price, with no offsetting benefit. The result will be less choice and diversity of supply, higher prices for customers, and lower efficiency in the sector."
Of the Miscellaneous Organisations opposed to this proposal the Scottish Council for Development and Industry stated: "new innovations can give the consumer estimates. As more companies improve innovation in their service physical taxi meters will gradually become irrelevant."
Transform Scotland stated: "An outright enforcement of taximeters on all taxis and private hire cars does not seem appropriate in all situations."
Question 14: Should the requirement of a taximeter for taxis and private hire cars be left instead to the discretion of each local licensing authority?
Due to an error this question was omitted from the online form. When this error was identified, respondents were contacted and offered the opportunity to respond. Only nineteen responses were submitted for this question with mixed views.
Yes - the requirement of a taximeter for taxis and private hire cars should be left instead to the discretion of each local licensing authority:
Five Local Authorities supported the use of discretion at local authority level.
The Scottish Disability Equality Forum supported the use of local authority discretion with the proviso that "exemptions from taximeters are consistent and meet a set of criteria recommended by Scottish Government."
Two Miscellaneous Organisations also supported the use of local authority discretion.
No - the requirement of a taximeter for taxis and private hire cars should not be left instead to the discretion of each local licensing authority:
West Lothian Councilwas opposed to the use of local authority discretion as "there would be confusion for the public when moving from area to area. The public should be able to rely on a consistent charging mechanism throughout Scotland."
Two Trade Organisations, two Disability and Accessibility Organisations andtwo Miscellaneous Organisations were also opposed to the use of local authority discretion.
Question 15: What would be the impact for example additional cost, of requiring all taxis and private hire car vehicles to install and operate a taximeter, in particular could this jeopardise provision in rural areas?
The responses from the Local Authorities were varied. One suggested that the cost is minimal and already borne by the majority of the private hire trade. Another suggested after the initial outlay the increased cost should be minimal. And many Individuals also suggested the cost was minimal and could be absorbed without difficulty.
However the majority of Local Authorities were concerned. TheHighland Councilstated: "The mandatory requirement for PHC's to have a meter fitted would involve the additional cost of the operator having to purchase the meter, have it calibrated to the Council tariff and then have it checked and sealed by the Council. Within Highland there are a significant number of rural areas which principally are serviced by PHC's rather than taxis. The imposition of additional costs for purchasing and maintaining a taximeter, together with the inability to charge in excess of the tariff may make some rural PHC businesses unviable. This would also increase costs for Council school transport and demand-responsive transport contracts, with no corresponding benefit, at a time when budgets are under pressure".
Some referred to answers to question 12 with rural Local Authorities, Trade Organisations, Disability and Accessibility Organisations and Miscellaneous Organisations all repeating concerns already made that service provision could be adversely affected in rural areas.
Question 16: Are you aware of particular problems with the charging of fares in your local area?
Concern was most evident from Individuals and a majority of Trade Organisations as well as two of the Disability and Accessibility Organisations.
Yes: We are aware of particular problems with the charging of fares in our local area:
One of the Local Authorities was concerned that surge pricing could have an adverse effect on traditional businesses.
From the Trade Organisations, some in the taxi tradesuggested legislation was necessary to address surge pricing. However a recent entrant to the tradesuggested that unlike taxis, customers for private hire have ample opportunity to choose between different services and instead regulation should focus on making pricing transparent and the service safe.
From the Individuals many were concerned about surge pricing and the charging of unreasonable excess fares at peak times when vehicle availability is limited.
The Disability and Accessibility Organisations were concerned regarding additional costs being included in the charging of fares.
No: we are not aware of particular problems with the charging of fares in our local area:
A majority of eight Local Authorities from both urban and rural areas all confirmed they were not aware of problems in their area.
One of the Local Authorities reported that they were aware of complaints from the taxi trade regarding surge pricing at times of peak demand but they had not received complaints from members of the public who had paid a "surged" fare. They suggested this was a matter of customer choice and instead a statutory requirement to disclose the fare before the journey began would be sufficient.
Question 17: Can you suggest, or have you experienced licensing authority good practice in relation to fares?
Local Authorities stressed the importance of regular consultation with the trade. Informal meetings with the trade prior to the formal fees review process can identify potential problems and save time.
One of the Disability and Accessibility Organisations singled out Perth Council for praise as they have delivered a fair charging policy and disability equality training. And they also mentioned Clackmannanshire Council for their efforts to improve services and charging policies for the disabled.