I wanted to follow up on my note from Monday to respond to some of the feedback we’ve received, to clarify some areas where there have been some questions and concerns – and to personally apologise if any of my comments came across as anything but sincere and genuine.
Understandably, there have been some strong opinions expressed about my message, though I’m sure all drivers would agree that personal abuse aimed at Hailo’s founder taxi drivers, or any Hailo drivers, is never the right thing to do. Just as importantly in this instance, it’s simply not right – Terry, Russ and Gary don’t sit in a room on their own making every decision. Hailo is now a sizeable company with a large management team and over 200 employees worldwide.
No-one at Hailo believed our decision to expand our customer offering into PH would be anything less than controversial and difficult. We know when we started three years ago that we said that Hailo would be Black Cab only. Unfortunately, the market reality is that things are changing rapidly and we sincerely believe that we have to change with them. It was never our plan but it has become a necessity.
Hailo For Business – Although it was not our ambition to build our business on the back of large corporate accounts, the reality is that the longer jobs and off peak work are heavily supplied by these types of customers. It has become clear that to win and service this work, we must have a service offering which runs beyond just black taxis and includes executive cars and a host of new product features. We have already signed up hundreds of accounts for Hailo for Business in London, and have ongoing discussions with other large potential clients.
UBER – In November, Uber began to aggressively expand UberX in London. You may have seen many more unmarked Toyotas, BMWs and even Mercedes around town lately using Uber’s hailing app to directly compete with street hail work traditionally reserved for London’s black cabs. What is happening to taxis around the world, is now happening in London. Hailing App technology can allow anyone to go after street hails.
LYFT – Lyft is unknown, at the moment, in Europe. It is a US car service which allows any unlicensed member of the public to download an app and apply to pick up fares. This may not have seemed relevant in London six months ago, but Lyft has just raised $250m to expand in Europe. Neither Uber’s or Lyft’s business models may appear legal but regulators in London are not even barking, never mind biting.
I appreciate that it is easy to talk the talk versus walk the walk and you must judge us on our actions. But I would ask all of our drivers to consider whether Hailo has helped you to earn more money over the last three years and to please judge our current decision on whether we continue to help you to earn more money in the future. Ultimately the intent behind any promise that we have made, or will make in the future, is always to put black cab drivers first and to help them earn more each day when they go on shift. The decisions that we are now considering are designed to help you earn more money not less and to make sure that ever more people use the Hailo App and so get to choose a taxi, rather than losing customers to alternative services.
Over the last three years we would never claim to be perfect, we have certainly made mistakes, but I hope you can give us some credit for helping you earn more and keeping the London black cab competitive and relevant. I apologise that the information causing this controversy was not given to you directly by Hailo but the leak was beyond our control and we still do not have a license. In the future, we will try to be as transparent as possible about our plans without putting at risk Hailo’s ongoing competitive position.
I would welcome Hailo drivers’ views and promise to read all of them personally, so please usethis form to share your thoughts.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Ron Zeghibe, Co-Founder and Chairman
Taxis and private hire services, which include minicabs, are an essential link in the transport network of England and Wales, with passengers spending in excess of £2.5 billion a year on fares.
But the law that governs how the taxi and private hire trades operate is old, inconsistent and struggling to deal with internet-driven changes in passenger behaviour.
In a report published today, the Law Commission is recommending reforms that would update the law and make it clearer for those working in the taxi and private hire trades and their passengers.
The Commission’s report recognises the value to passenger choice of the two-tier system of private hire vehicles – which must be pre-booked, and taxis – which can use ranks or ply for immediate hire. It makes recommendations to retain and reinforce the distinction.
Passenger safety is at the forefront of the Commission’s reforms. It is recommending that standards be set nationally for public safety, accessibility and environmental impact. For the first time, passengers of taxis and private hire vehicles could confidently expect consistent levels of safety and quality wherever they travel. Under the reforms:
- all private hire vehicles, including stretch limos and other “novelty” vehicles, would be subject to the same standards, wherever they operate
- taxis would be subject to a comparable set of standards, which could be added to locally, allowing licensing authorities to choose to set higher standards where they want to, and
- local licensing authorities would have the power to inspect and, if necessary suspend, any vehicles working within their areas, wherever they are licensed.
These reforms would not impact on the famous black cabs in London, where standards of safety and accessibility are already high. But pedicabs in the capital will fall within taxi licensing for the first time, allowing Transport for London to set appropriate standards. Cars used for weddings and funerals, however, will continue to be exempt from regulation.
Among the measures designed to improve the accessibility of services for disabled people, the Commission is recommending a national requirement for taxi and private hire drivers to take disability awareness training. And local licensing authorities would be able to impose a duty on taxis to stop when they are hailed, bringing to an end the unacceptable practice of drivers passing by disabled people.
There would be stiffer penalties, too, for touting (actively soliciting customers), which poses a significant safety risk. Under the Commission’s reforms, licensing authorities would be given the power to impound any vehicles used in connection with touting.
Passengers are increasingly turning to the internet to book their taxi and private hire services. In a move to help the private hire trade respond, the Law Commission is recommending that operators should no longer be barred from accepting bookings or using drivers and vehicles from outside their licensing areas.
Licensing authorities should be able to continue to limit taxi numbers, provided they conduct a regular review of the service being provided. Restrictions on the numbers of taxis in some areas have led to inflated “plate values”.
To protect the investment of existing drivers, the Commission recommends that the trade in licences should be allowed to continue. But, in areas where quantity restrictions are introduced for the first time, licenses should not be tradable
Nicholas Paines QC, the Law Commissioner leading on the project, says:
“The taxi and private hire trades are of enormous value to England and Wales. They provide a living for thousands of operators and drivers, and many more thousands of people depend on them to go about their daily lives.
“The reforms we are recommending will clarify the legal distinction between taxis and private hire services, and retain the valuable qualities of both. They will equip operators, drivers and their vehicles to meet the demands of a modern passenger-service trade, while making passenger safety and accessibility paramount.”
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If you are a user of online auctioneer eBay it’s time to change your password, after the company admitted it was the victim of what is thought to be the 2nd largest data breach in US history.Internet security experts said eBay “had questions to answer” last night, as the firm provided few details about how hackers had slipped undetected into its databases.
In an embarrassing disclosure for the firm, which accounted for £126 billion of commerce online last year, it revealed that the breaches involved hackers accessing the details of up to 128 million users as long as three months ago, though the attack was not detected until much more recently.
“Our customers are our highest priority; and to ensure they continue to have a safe, secure and trusted experience on eBay, we will be asking all eBay users to change their passwords,” the company told the Telegraph yesterday.
Industry experts have pointed out that the firm is viewed by hackers as the golden goose of targets, with its popularity and massive online reach making it a potential gold mine for cybercriminals.
However the company insisted that it had no evidence of “unauthorised activity” on its members’ accounts and that data on its PayPal money transfer service remained secure.
Despite this reassurance, eBay recommended that its users change their passwords as “best practise” and promised to “enhance security for eBay users”.
Security experts have been quick to point out the breach isn’t restricted to passwords though, with compromised information also including “unprotected” real-world data such as customer names, email addresses, addresses, phone numbers and dates of birth.
Professor Alan Woodward, an internationally respected cybersecurity expert at the University of Surrey, told The Independent: “That this has happed to a big company like eBay results in a collective sigh from everyone involved online security. It just shouldn’t happen.
“I infer from the statement from eBay that what has happened is that a small number of employees with privileged access have fallen prey to something like a phishing attack and inadvertently given away their login credentials.
“However, for something as important as this database, it should take more than just username and password to access it. There should have been two-factor authentication. So, the question is was there and if there was how on earth did the hackers get past it? If not theneBay has some serious questions to answer.”
eBay has not provided any information about the kind of encryption it used to protect passwords, and experts such Prof Woodward have questioned why further personal information on the site was not encrypted at all, leaving the door open for “possible ID fraud” against affected users.
Brendan Rizzo, cyber security expert and the technical director at Voltage Security, a market leader in encryption technology, agrees that the “worrying aspect of this disclosure” was that eBay had left personally identifiable information “completely unprotected”.
He told The Independent: “This information would give the attackers almost all of the information they need to undertake fraudulent activity on a compromised user’s behalf. If data is left unprotected, it’s not a matter of ‘if’ it will be compromised – it’s a matter of ‘when’.”
This won’t be the first time this year that Internet users have been asked to reset their passwords, with the Heartbleed bug, discovered in April, triggering widespread cybersecurity worries.
By Jim Thomas TaxiLeaks
Unconfirmed reports have been received that ‘the boys & girls in Blue’ had to attend Hailo’s office in Great Suffolk Street on Tuesday as driver after driver visited ‘to discuss’ the matter.