updated 08:23 am EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
Change to extend Hailo to private hire cars provokes resentment by cab drivers
The London office of a taxi app has been attacked by drivers, over a change in policy. Hailo, an app that lets users hail black cabs in the city to their location, has seen fights and vandalism at the office, including the word "Scabs" written on one wall, after the app extended itself to provide private hire services in order to compete with Uber and other similar apps in the city.
Hailo was originally created by three London cab drivers, reports The Guardian, with the initial focus being on just black cabs. The company has applied for its own private hire operator's license, which would in theory allow it to provide an Uber-style service. "When we started, it was a straight fight between taxis and private hire," writes co-founder and chairman Ron Zeghibe in an open letter to drivers, claiming a taxi-only app would be isolated and would lose customers wanting an app with a more choices.
"Drivers like you are losing their livelihoods because passengers are moving to apps that don't offer taxis as an option. It's happening in London. Let's do something about it."
The decision has caused considerable resentment among black cab drivers. Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association, said "When the app was set up it was done so under the idea of supporting black cab drivers, and they saw it as fighting back against the private hires. So now the guys just feel betrayed. There's a huge amount of frustration. McNamara notes there have been various incidents after the decision was made by Hailo, with some drivers removing the app's stickers from their cabs. "What we're saying is if you don't want to be a part of it any more, then just leave."
Cab drivers are preparing to stage a protest on June 11th, attempting to cause gridlock in central London, against app services such as Uber which do not use licensed cabs. It is claimed that, by using an app to calculate fares, this makes the app the equivalent of a taximeter, something which cannot be used in a private vehicle, and that the firms are also not subject to the same level of regulation that licensed cab drivers face.
This is not the first time transport apps such as these have hit resistance by existing taxi ecosystems. Uber has previously dealt with class action suits and other problems in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Washington D.C. In France, a law was instigated forcing app-based driver services to wait 15 minutes before picking up a customer, in an attempt to appease taxi drivers in the country.