Queensland’s Taxi Council (TCQ) says an increase in sexual assaults by fake taxi drivers across the UK should “sound the alarm” to Queenslanders who use unregulated smartphone apps to book cabs.
TCQ has renewed its warning to use only smartphone taxi booking apps from regulated taxi booking companies.
The warning comes after a woman in the UK was raped by a man posing as a taxi driver this week, and follows the revelation from state transport minister Scott Emerson that there were people in Queensland trying to operate unauthorised taxi services.
TCQ chief executive officer Benjamin Wash said the combination of illegal taxi operators and unaccountable smartphone apps created a potentially dangerous situation.
“Unregulated taxi apps assist illegal operators because some allow anyone to register as a driver. We know this for a fact because we’ve tested them.
“Anyone can enter a fake name and be offered jobs from an unsuspecting member of the public. This is the dirty – and dangerous – little secret that these companies don’t want you to know.
“There is nothing stopping a fake driver with criminal motives – or even a criminal history – from accepting your fare. Even if the driver’s motive is just profit, an unlawful taxi operator gives you no protection.”
Recently police in Birmingham UK revealed that 75 women have been sexually assaulted over the past two years, stating that “some (fake taxi drivers) have darker motives to lure vulnerable, often drunk, lone women into their cars.”
Mr Wash said taxis are the safest form of door to door transport, with around 250,000 taxi fares each day across Queensland and “a comparatively miniscule amount of problems”.
“We want to protect the reputation of our industry and look after our customers.”
He also called on the media to stop promoting the apps and dismissing the dangers, expressing concern that “by the time they start to take our warnings seriously, it will be too late.”
Mr Wash urged customers to make sure they use a taxi app that carries the logo of their local taxi company, explaining that most Queensland taxi companies have their own smartphone apps.