Bringing Fairer Ride-hailing to London

September 09, 2017

 

I started Taxify 4 years ago with a vision for a better ride-hailing platform, one that would treat both drivers and riders fairly.

I felt very strongly that an uncompetitive ride-hailing industry leads to the mistreatment of drivers, who are barely earning the minimum wage, and substandard service for passengers.

This has been my mission, and in 4 years we have expanded into 19 countries around the world, providing a reliable, safe, affordable ride-hailing option to over 3 million customers.

Launching in London was always an ambition of mine, as never in our experience have we found a city so in need of an alternative, high quality and established provider. I have been overwhelmed by the response. More than 3,000 drivers signed up before the technology went live to the London market and a further 7,000 drivers have requested on-boarding in the three days since Tuesday’s launch. It has also proven to be a hit with customers, over 30,000 people have signed up since our launch. When we launched the service on Tuesday we experienced the largest first day demand out of any new in any city so far, and received calls from dozens of operators who want to start using the Taxify platform. To me, the demand for our service is clear; people have voted with their feet.

But London, in its uniqueness, has also surprised us with the most hostile regulatory body we have ever encountered. More than 4 months ago we applied for a private hire operator license. Over this time we contacted TfL more than 20 times, without a single reply on the clear status of the application. Together with us, there are hundreds of companies still waiting for their applications to be reviewed.

After failing to get any response from TfL, we started contacting existing licensed private hire operators to offer our technology platform to them. We acquired one of these licensed operators, City Drive Services, and granted them a license to use the technology, which is fully compliant with UK law. TfL was notified in August 28th about the update of shareholding and change of directors as required.

It was a great surprise to us that, following the launch of our service, and without any contact, TfL launched a secretive investigation by requesting rides using the Taxify app and threatening drivers with the loss of their license.

TfL issued a comment to the media, stating Taxify does not have a private operator license, despite being fully aware the software does not need one and that we were using a licensed operator, City Drive Services.

After 3 days of operations and still no contact from TfL, we received a statement from TfL requesting that Taxify stop operations immediately. To protect drivers on the platform from further harassment, we immediately complied and therefore City Drive Services stopped dispatching bookings to the drivers.

Merely 12 hours after the halting of operations, TfL sent yet another notice to the office of our fully licensed operating entity, City Drive Services, revoking their license completely. They cited irrelevant change of directors from the previous owners to a Taxify employee claiming this represented a risk for Londoners.

We are confident that there is no merit to TfL’s arguments, and we are therefore immediately appealing the revoking of the license.

Despite Taxify’s best efforts to engage, consult and comply with the London regulatory framework, TfL has done everything in their power to keep the current private hire monopoly in place.

Irrespective of the hurdles imposed on Taxify by TfL, the support from the private hire industry and thousands of Londoners has been overwhelming. We have dozens of operators who are eager to start using the Taxify platform and help us bring a fairer ride-hailing app to the city.

I believe London deserves better and I will do everything possible to get Taxify back to improving the London marketplace for drivers and consumers as soon as possible.

– Markus Villig, Founder & CEO