Council chiefs in Hartlepool have issued a warning about using ‘Facebook Taxis’ following a huge increase in the number of people offering lifts for money on social media.
Ian Harrison, Hartlepool Borough Council’s trading standards and licensing manager, said: “The council carries out rigorous checks on its taxi trade so that the public can have confidence that both the driver and the vehicle are safe and reliable and that the vehicles are correctly insured.
"When a private individual offers themselves as a taxi service, they have not been subjected to any checks and their vehicle will not be correctly insured. This places each and every passenger at risk.
“We are aware of one recent incident where a young woman was offering ‘cheap taxi runs’ on Facebook, but when the driver actually turned up, it was a middle aged man. These types of incidents seriously concern me.
"I fully appreciate that there may be a shortage of taxis at busy times and that the public will always be tempted to look for a ‘good deal’, but I would urge everyone to only use properly licensed taxis and private hire companies.
“For anyone who is, or is thinking of, providing ‘cheap taxi runs’, I would remind them that to do so is a criminal offence, and Hartlepool Borough Council will not hesitate to prosecute in order to protect the public and retain public confidence in the taxi licensing system.
“Offering unlicensed taxi services may also void their car insurance and make it extremely difficult and expensive to be re-insured.
"Again, in order to protect the public, the council will not hesitate to notify insurance companies where it finds someone offering unlicensed taxi services.”
Anyone wanting to report an unlicensed taxi can report it to Hartlepool Borough Council’s licensing team on (01429) 523354 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.