Taxify boss criticises Transport for London after botched launch of ride-hailing Uber alternative

 
Jasper Jolly
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Taxify has marketed itself as an Uber alternative (Source: Taxify)

The chief executive of ride-hailing app Taxify has criticised "hostile" London transport authorities who forced his firm to stop operating less than a week after it launched in the capital.

Markus Villig, Taxify founder and chief executive, said he had been "surprised" by the "most hostile regulatory body we have ever encountered", accusing Transport for London (TfL) of doing "everything in their power to keep the current private hire monopoly in place", in a blog post published today.

TfL forced Taxify to temporarily suspend its operations on Friday after an MP queried whether it was properly licenced.

TfL placed the company under "urgent investigation", after coming to the conclusion its acquisition of licence holder City Drive Services did not allow it to operate in the city without gaining new authorisation.

Read more: Uber rival Taxify has stopped operating in London after less than a week

Villig said the firm applied for a private hire operator licence four months ago. He claimed they had contacted TfL more than 20 times seeking clarification of its licence since then "without a single reply on the clear status of the application".

Villig claimed the firm's operation did comply with regulations, with Taxify licensing its software to City Drive Services.

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

The Estonian start-up, which is backed by Chinese ride hailing giant Didi Chuxing, markets itself as an alternative to other ride-hailing apps, including Uber, which is dominant in the UK. Taxify claims it will "treat both drivers and riders fairly".

Read more: Uber's facing a fresh challenge in London with two new rivals pulling up

The Taxify dispute adds further to a growing list of regulatory issues surrounding ride-hailing apps in London. TfL renewed the licences of Uber and Addison Lee for only four months each while it considers raising fees.

Private hire operators currently only pay a fixed fee of £2,826 for a five-year licence. For Uber, that could theoretically jump as high as £2m if TfL chooses to make firms pay for drivers individually, rather than as a company. Uber currently has more than 30,000 drivers.

Authorities are considering raising the fees in part because of the boom in private hire vehicles on London's streets. On study found the number had increased by as much as 74 per cent since 2014.

Read more: Addison Lee's licence renewed for only six months as TfL considers fees

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