Legal action warning for Wolverhampton black cab drivers not offering contactless payments

Black cab drivers in Wolverhampton who don’t offer contactless card payments as an option – or try to add a surcharge to the fare – will face legal action, the city’s licensing boss has warned.

The council approved the compulsory requirement of the facility for contactless card payments within all Hackney carriage vehicles on January 19 this year.

Although most proprietors and drivers had already complied with the move, licensing manager Greg Bickerdike said a few were yet to provide a machine to allow customers to pay by contactless methods.

Mr Bickerdike said the council had received several complaints from customers stating that this service was not offered, or that attempts had been made to impose a surcharge for using debit or credit cards.

In a report to the council’s regulatory committee, he said: “It is proposed that the Hackney carriage vehicle licence conditions be updated. This will facilitate enforcement against non-compliant proprietors.

“It is unlawful to impose surcharges on customers for using consumer credit cards, debit or charge cards, electronic payment services such as PayPal or similar non-card methods such as mobile phones.

“Customers should not be charged any more than the amount which is displayed on the meter or the agreed fare. The pre-agreed fare cannot include any additional charge for using a debit or credit card payment. This does not apply to transactions using a corporate or business credit card.

“As all Hackney carriages licensed by Wolverhampton are wheelchair accessible, this leads to a higher proportion of disabled people using them. Disabled people are vulnerable to contagious diseases and the requirement for contactless payments was introduced on the recommendation of Public Health,” he added.

The council is also set to approve a consultation on hackney carriage and private hire licensing requirements and guidelines.

Mr Bickerdike said the Department for Transport (DfT) last consulted on ‘best practice guidance’ between March and June this year. The latest consultation will also take into account the licensing function for South Staffordshire Council, which is delegated to Wolverhampton.

In a further report, he added: “The council has a duty to protect the general public from harm when using hackney carriage or private hire vehicles. In order to do this, the council must satisfy itself that all drivers and operators are ‘fit and proper’ persons.

“Proprietors, drivers and operators are required to provide a written framework which allows employees and councillors to make fair and consistent decisions when assessing the suitability of licence applicants.

“Guidelines are also applicable for existing drivers or firms if they breach conditions, are convicted/cautioned for relevant offences or behave in a manner that is inconsistent with what is expected from a licence holder,” added the report.

The regulatory committee will discuss approval of both matters next Thursday.

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