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How to ensure a rogue taxi driver doesn’t rip you off

Conor Pope: Learn to navigate the €3.80 standard fare, booking fees and more

A case in the Dublin District Court earlier this week stoked the perhaps low-level fears many Irish people have that they are being ripped off in a distinctly underhand fashion as they go about the course of their days.

On Monday the court heard how a taxi driver had duped passengers into paying €9 more than they needed to, on 280 occasions over four months at the start of this year.

Robert Griffin (66) of Maplewood Park, Springfield in Tallaght, was fined €750 after he pleaded guilty to overcharging, contrary to the Taxi Regulation Act, by secretly using a remote control device hidden in the door on the driver's side of his car to fiddle with the meter over the course of several journeys.

The scam was uncovered after the National Transport Authority (NTA), which regulates the taxi industry, received a tip-off and sent an inspector to investigate.


Liam Kavanagh told the court the trail led him to a taxi rank at Tallaght hospital where Griffin was parked. The game was soon up.

“He admitted he had used the remote control to add extras to taxi fares,” Kavanagh said. “The scam, for want of a better word, was closed down.”

Judge Anthony Halpin said the amount of overcharging could have been "colossal".

It emerged that it wasn’t just Griffin who may have been involved in the scam. A subsequent NTA investigation found that more than 200 taxi meters were shown to be similarly vulnerable to the remote control device. These meters were all recalled and replaced with new software.

But while this was a particularly sneaky scam that was laid bare in court, there are other perhaps more old-fashioned ones taking place every day, to the detriment of the taxi-using public.

Gardaí occasionally place checkpoints close to Dublin Airport, looking for taxi drivers taking roads less travelled in order to make more money when ferrying passengers from Dublin Airport into the city centre. Such checks nearly always find a few offenders.

In one recent clampdown against rogue drivers profiting from tourists and others unfamiliar with the fastest ways into Dublin city, the Garda Síochána found five taxi drivers bringing passengers from the airport via the Malahide Road in the space of a couple of hours – and was able to charge them with not using the shortest route.

Taking the Malahide Road instead of approaching the city via Drumcondra or Ballymun can add €10 to a fare from the airport, and the offence can result in a prosecution and a fine of up to €2,500.

Booking fee

Another tactic sees rogue drivers attach booking fees to fares even when journeys begin at a rank or after being hailed in the street. Such an offence attracts a €60 fixed-charge notice, although in the absence of targeted checkpoints or vigilant passengers it is virtually impossible to detect.

The advice from both the Garda and the NTA is the same: passengers are urged to establish the likely cost before taking a taxi and to get receipts to ensure dates and times are accurately recorded and all additions applied are valid.

But, to self-police fares, people need to be aware of what they should be paying and awareness is not great in Ireland.

How many people know, for instance of the existence of a Driver Check app, which allows the public to verify that a driver and vehicle they are about to hire are both correctly licensed and vetted?

How many people know that a standard fare applies from 8am to 8pm Monday to Saturday except on public holidays, and that it has an initial charge of €3.80, which covers the first half kilometre?

The next 14.5km or 41 minutes of a journey is called “tariff A” and charged at €1.14 per km or 40 cent per minute. If the journey is longer than that, “tariff B” applies, and the cost of further distances climbs to €1.50 per km or 53 cent per minute.

Premium rates, meanwhile, apply from 8pm to 8am and start with a €4.20 initial charge, rising to a maximum of €1.80 per kilometre on tariff B. Special rates apply during December 24th-26th and December 31st-January 1st.

A booking fee of €2 may be charged for bookings made by telephone, email or app. Fees of €1 can apply for each adult passenger after the first, although one child under 12 years of age must be carried free.

Sometimes it is not the taxi drivers who push fares higher but the authorities. While the fees listed above are correct right now, they will be out of date within weeks after the NTA approved fare increases of almost 5 per cent that are set to kick in early next year.

A National Maximum Taxi Fare Review carried out this summer looked at the cost of running a taxi service and found strong economic growth, falling unemployment levels and increased consumer spending had all had positive implications for the industry over the past two years.

It estimated the cost of operating a taxi had climbed by about 4 per cent in the same period and said proposals for an increase in maximum fares of 4.5 per cent would cover this running cost increase, as well as extra costs associated with the provision of credit and debit card payment facilities.

International price

The NTA’s strict rules also keep prices higher than they may otherwise be by blocking disrupters such as Uber from operating as they do elsewhere.

In this State Uber drivers must have Public Service Vehicle licences, a requirement that strips the service of its unique selling point as the general public can not use private cars to ferry people from A to B at a reduced cost.

And how do fares here compare with other parts of the world? Quite well as it turns out.

According to international price comparison website Numbeo, a 5km journey in Dublin costs an average of €11.05. A similar journey in a black cab in London is €19.91 while in Lisbon it is just €5.80. In Amsterdam the price is €16.60, while in Paris the journey will set a passenger back €11.75. In Madrid the cost is €8.38 while in Zurich it is an eye-watering €24.82.

So are Irish passengers being “ripped off”? There is no evidence of a widespread rip-off or scam culture in Ireland. A number of passengers who contacted The Irish Times in recent days had largely positive things to say about Irish drivers.

While there is no competition in the form of Uber, the market was substantially deregulated almost two decades ago, leading to greater competition within the industry and a far greater availability of cars. Our prices compare well with other European capitals, and the gardaí and regulator try to be vigilant about prices.

However, as in all areas of personal expenditure, there is no substitute for consumer knowledge and self-vigilance. Inform yourself about prices and charges, watch the meter, and you’ll protect yourself from the apparently small number of unscrupulous drivers working on Irish streets.