Glasgow & West Scotland

Private hire drivers targeted by mystery shopper scheme

Taxi
Image caption The council points out that only licensed taxis can be hailed on the street

Mystery shoppers are to target private hire drivers who 'pirate' for fares in Glasgow.

The scheme follows a decision by the city council's Licensing and Regulatory Committee.

Under the terms of their licence, private hire cars can only pick-up passengers through a pre-arranged booking.

Only taxi drivers, those who drive 'black cabs', can legitimately respond to being hailed in the street.

There is evidence of private hire drivers randomly picking up passengers without pre-booking, which council bosses say creates a significant risk to passenger safety.

No central record of these journeys will exist, which would invalidate drivers insurance in the event of an accident.

In the first six months of this year, over half of the complaints about private hire drivers that were considered by the Licensing and Regulatory Committee were about pirating.

In all cases this led to drivers having their licences suspended, sometimes for up to six months at a time for repeat offenders.

'Safety risk'

Chairman of the Licensing and Regulatory Committee, Councillor Frank Docherty said: "Pirate drivers put passenger safety at risk. Like the pirates of old, these drivers are only interested in making a quick buck and to hell with the consequences.

"The council has a very active taxi enforcement team, but they can't be everywhere all at once. Unfortunately the drivers who end up in front of the committee may only be the tip of the iceberg.

"Introducing the mystery shopper scheme will protect both passengers and the legitimate drivers who play fairly and squarely by the rules."

Police Scotland told the committee there were incidents involving unlicensed journeys that had led to incidents where passengers had complained of substantial fraud or even sexual assault.

The proposal for a mystery shopper scheme was passed unanimously at today's meeting of the Licensing and Regulatory Committee.