Many taxis are breaching equality laws by charging wheelchair-users extra to use their services, say disabled campaigners.
People First Keighley and Craven (PFKC) is campaigning for private hire vehicles in the Bradford area to stick to the law.
PFKC members say that Hackney carriages cannot overcharge, but many private hire vehicles do, and they say this must stop.
They have already forced taxi companies that were charging wheelchair-users double the normal rate to cut this to one-and-a-half times the usual fee, but they say this is still not good enough.
Private hire firms were warned two years ago – following a PFKC campaign – that they risked prosecution if they carried on overcharging.
But Tom Walsh, a campaign worker for PFKC and himself a wheelchair-user, said the overcharging is continuing and is widespread in the Bradford area.
He said he was “annoyed” about this, and added: “They can charge what they want. They set their own prices.
“I just felt a bit ripped off. Especially when I did mystery shopping and found out from some people I was using that they were charging me double. I felt discriminated against.
“It’s not just me – it’s everyone in wheelchairs. When I have mentioned it to other wheelchair-users they didn’t even know they were being overcharged.”
Geoff Binnington, principal officer for Bradford council’s fleet and transport services, said: “We have heard about some operators allegedly using discriminatory fares, but have seen no evidence to support this.
“We work closely with both disability groups and operators to ensure both are aware that fares should not discriminate.”
He said the council had commissioned a report to examine the issue of overcharging, but he added: “We have no legal control over fares set by private hire operators – this is something they themselves decide.
“We would also advise people to always agree a fare before a journey commences.”
But he said that private hire companies – including drivers and employees – have to abide by the council’s own public sector equality duty, under the Equality Act.
This means the council has to have “due regard” to eliminating unlawful discrimination, harassment or victimisation; advancing equality of opportunity; and fostering good relations between groups such as disabled people, minority ethnic communities, older people, and those who do not share such “protected characteristics”.
Stuart Hastings, chair of Keighley Private Hire Association and boss of Metro Keighley Taxis, said his company kept strictly to the law and did not charge wheelchair-users extra.
But he said that his company’s wheelchair-accessible minivans have electric tail lifts, which meant they were much more expensive than standard private hire vehicles, while he claimed that it often took twice as long to complete a job if the passenger was a wheelchair-user.
Hastings said: “The law says you cannot charge anything extra for someone in a wheelchair.
“There is right and wrong, and then there is the law, and the law says we cannot do that, so we don’t. Some other companies do.”
22 January 2015
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com