That’s the big message from Liverpool City Council’s licensing chiefs at the start of the new football season.
The council is concerned that football fans could end up getting ripped off by rogue cabbies and private hire drivers as they plan a quick getaway from the big game.
Last season the council received complaints about ‘cherry picking’ and ‘plying for hire’ by cabbies and private hire drivers on match day.
Cherry picking is where unscrupulous black cab drivers wait outside the match with their ‘for hire’ sign not lit. They claim to be unavailable but when a potential fare comes along they are suddenly ready to go. The snag is, they keep the meter off and end up charging the passenger well over the odds.
In some examples passengers have been charged £20 for a journey that would have cost as little as £5 if the meter was on.
Plying for hire is where private hire drivers attempt to pick up passengers who have not booked in advance – meaning the journey is illegal and the driver is uninsured.
To combat this the council launched a special operation aimed at catching the culprits. Officers went undercover on match days and posed as passengers to see if they could identify those not playing by the rules.
This week some of the drivers snared in the operation faced their day in court.
Liverpool-based Hackney Carriage driver Alan Duringer admitted cherry picking when facing the city’s magistrates.
The court heard that Duringer was parked on Walton Breck Road close to Anfield at the end of Liverpool’s clash with West Brom in January.
The undercover officers asked if he could take them to Lime Street. Durringer said he had a £20 fare booked but if they could cover it, he would take them.
Duringer was ordered to pay £280 in fines and cost by the court.
At the same match, Wirral-based private hire driver Musleh Uddin was caught plying for hire when he again agreed to take two undercover officers to Lime Street for £20 despite the journey not being booked in advance.
Uddin admitted plying for hire and driving without insurance as ordered to pay £375 and given six penalty points.
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “This kind of behaviour is completely unacceptable. Football fans in the city have the right to enjoy the match without the fear that they might be getting ripped off or taking an uninsured ride on the way home.”
“We have listened to the fans who complained about this last season and have taken action. The vast majority of cabbies and private hire drivers in our city are honest and decent and will not try and overcharge people. However for those who are not, we will be carrying out similar operations this year and if you don’t play by the rules you will get caught.”
For more information on licensing issues in Liverpool, visit: liverpool.gov.uk and search for ‘licensing’.