A firm which makes a taxi app, Hailo, has had its London office vandalised following a move to make the service usable by private hire cars, and not just licensed black cab drivers.
The Hailo app lets customers call a taxi to wherever they are, and is available on Android and iOS, but the move to expand its remit has been met with anger from black cab drivers, with a fight reportedly breaking out at the London office – according to the BBC, police were called to the fracas. The building has also had the word 'scabs' daubed on the wall.
There is evidently much anger at the fact that Hailo is now being opened up beyond an exclusive service for black cabs.
Hailo was co-founded by three London black cab drivers – Russell Hall, Terry Runham and Gary Jackson.
Ron Zeghibe, the Chairman of Hailo, defended the firm's decision in an open letter on the company blog, arguing that they need to move with the times, or the app will become irrelevant in the long run, and everyone will lose out.
He stated: "We will do whatever it takes to grow work for taxi drivers and keep black cabs relevant to the changing demands of passengers and businesses. That means not ducking the difficult or unpopular decisions, but doing what it takes to keep taxis relevant and competitive. We must make sure taxis are an option available on every passenger's smartphone."
Zeghibe continued: "Hailo has applied for a Private Hire operator's licence in preparation to have the full service that passengers and businesses tell us they want. There is no point burying our heads in the sand – people want a choice and taxis need to be in the mix. A taxi-only app will get isolated and customers will take their money to services without any cabs on offer. It is already happening."
Those rival services, such as Uber, are having increasing success. Uber, which offers background checked private drivers, has extended its tentacles to over a hundred cities spanning 36 countries (including London, as well as Manchester and Dublin).
Indeed, the likes of Uber and similar services are becoming a major issue with cab drivers across Europe, as they argue it isn't right that they aren't subject to the same regulation as licensed cab drivers are. There have been major protests in Milan, over in Italy, and London cabbies are planning a protest, on 11 June, against the way TfL has dealt with Uber's presence in London.
Steve McNamara, head of the London Taxi Drivers' Association, told the Beeb: "Our beef is not with Uber but with the regulator which is not enforcing the law and kowtowing in the face of Uber's money."
McNamara noted that Uber was backed by Google and Goldman Sachs.
Zeghibe concluded his Hailo blog post: "Every free-thinking driver knows that you've got to be in it to win it. Passengers want a choice and if we don't give them what they want, they will take their money to car apps that don't offer taxis at all. We need to compete and make sure passengers can choose a taxi when they want one."
"For example, if we want taxis to take a share of account work, then it is a must that we offer executive cars too. It is better that taxis get 80 per cent of a city bank's jobs than 100 per cent of nothing."