Harpenden man charged extra by taxi for using a wheelchair

Mike Joiner

Mike Joiner - Credit: Archant

Damning evidence of a Harpenden taxi firm apparently discriminating against a disabled passenger has been obtained by the Herts Ad.

Wheelchair user Mike Joiner recorded the moment an employee of Harpenden Taxis told him it would cost more to take him home in one of their taxis because he is in a wheelchair.

Charging extra for wheelchair users became illegal on April 6 2017 under the Equality Act 2010 for both private hire and taxis, and drivers still implementing a discriminatory policy face a £1,000 fine and may have their licence suspended or revoked.

Mike booked a cab with the company from his home to the train station on June 3, confirming whether he could be accommodated in an electric wheelchair.

He has a rare condition called Addison’s disease which means his body does not produce enough cortisol – it leaves Mike extremely fatigued and sometimes confused, and he has such little body weight and muscle mass that he needs a wheelchair to get out of the house.

When the first taxi arrived it could not accommodate his needs, but shortly afterwards a second car arrived which could.

But upon arrival at the Harpenden Taxi office at the station, Mike was told the fare would cost him double, from £5 to £10, because of his wheelchair.

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Mike said: “I asked them if they were aware of the law change, and he answered ‘it’s not my law’.

“So I told them I was refusing to pay the extra £5 and he replied that when I call for a taxi again, they would not accept me.

“I felt frustrated and quite upset but just left them to it.”

For his booking home, Mike decided to record his conversation as evidence.

He can be heard saying: “I have an electric wheelchair, I want to know if they are going to charge me extra?”

A booking office employee replies: “Ah, they most likely are.”

Mike retorts: “Because you know the law has changed now.”

The person dismisses him: “You will have to speak to the driver, there should be a driver there who will take you though.”

There are two taxi booking offices at Harpenden Station - but the other company who operates from the location, A1 Taxis, have been closed for refurbishment for about three weeks.

In the end, Mike had to make his own way home in his wheelchair: “It was very frustrating because I was very tired and when I get tired I get confused.”

Mike has lodged a complaint with St Albans district council.

A spokesperson from Harpenden Taxis did not seem to be aware of the law change: “Wheelchair passengers are charged no extra fares when being picked up from taxi ranks, however when a private hire telephone booking is made, they are charged between £7 and £10.

“The customer was not overcharged.”

Deputy head of legal, democratic and regulatory services for St Albans district council, Maria Stagg, said an investigation is ongoing: “The allegation is that a taxi company refused to take a passenger to their required destination unless they were paid double the normal fare. We cannot provide further details at this point because the case is under investigation.”