Taxify’s chief executive officer Markus Villig has criticised the red tape surrounding private hire licencing in London, the day after the company’s ride-hailing app was blocked by TfL for non-compliance.
Writing on the company’s blog, Villig called London’s transit authority “the most hostile regulatory body we have ever encountered”.
The company claims to have contacted TfL “more than 20 times” since it applied for a private hire licence four months ago, but not to have received any response. In order to kick off operations, Villig explained, it then acquired a London-registered company, City Drive Services, which was already in possession of a licence, in order to use its assets. Taxify says it notified TfL about the change of leadership on 28th August, did not hear back, and finally began operations on 3rd September.
Three days after the app’s launch, however, TfL told Taxify to stop operations. It said Taxify’s sudden appointment of one of its employees as City Drive Services director posed risks for Londoners, a factor Villig called “irrelevant”. 12 hours later, TfL revoked City Drive Services’ licence altogether.
Villig accused TfL of launching a “secretive investigation by requesting rides using the Taxify app and threatening drivers with the loss of their license.”
He said that Taxify would be appealing the decision, since “there is no merit to TfL’s arguments”.
He added: “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.”
TfL released a brief statement saying: “Taxify is not a licensed private hire operator and is not licensed to accept private hire bookings in London.”
Villig founded Taxify in his native Estonia in 2013. The ride-hailer, which calls itself a technology firm connecting taxi operators, expanded mostly to emerging markets in Africa and Eastern Europe. Contrasting with the obstacles encountered in London, the company was able to streamline its Estonian business after the nation passed a law equating private hires and taxis.