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Police called ‘heavy handed’ in approach to illegal taxis

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POLICE have been ‘heavy handed’ in their approach to lift-sharing and assertions made about how much people can legally charge for lifts are ‘unfounded’, a developer which runs a lift-sharing app has said.

The Jersey Lifts Facebook page has almost 14,000 members

This week the States police announced that people suspected of offering illegal taxi services will have their information passed to insurance companies with a recommendation that their cover be withdrawn.

The force has regularly spoken out against the Jersey Lifts Facebook page – which has almost 14,000 members – and warned against the use of unregulated taxis.

As part of a new investigation, called Operation Shadow, police officers will patrol known pick-up and drop-off points to distribute flyers which warn drivers they could be breaking the law and invalidating their insurance if they charge more than 60 pence per mile – the Island’s ‘flat-rate mileage allowance’.

However, Itineris, which developed a Jersey Lifts app as a not-for-profit project, have said the police have taken an ‘unusual’ step in the clampdown on lift-sharing.

The app is completely separate to the Facebook group and its founders claim on their website that the app was launched following consultation with the States and with advice from lawyers Preston Legal.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Itineris said: ‘We find it very unusual that the States of Jersey Police are getting involved in what should be a  civil matter between policyholders and insurance companies, considering that these insurance companies could easily make their customers aware of these concerns directly. Until a user has profited from a ride, no offence has been committed and we feel that a recommendation to withdraw insurance coverage is not within the remit of the police force. 

‘This leaflet begins by supporting ride-sharing, but quickly turns against it with a heavy­handed tone and vague information on legal repercussions.’

Drivers are also warned in the flyer they could be prosecuted for driving without insurance, as their cover would be invalidated, or for operating a cab service without the necessary licence. Those prosecuted could face heavy fines.

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Itineris added: ‘The assertion that drivers who charge more than 60p per mile will be breaking the law is unfounded.

‘Drivers are entitled to collect for the running costs of their car, no more. Depending on the vehicle in question, insurance rates and car depreciation, costs could be significantly more – especially where drivers have only recently passed and have high insurance premiums.

‘If this is the figure the police intend to run with, we’d ask that they publish the parameters used in their calculations.

‘Itineris is dedicated to making ride-sharing safer for everyone, which is why the Jersey Lifts app provides driver and passenger ratings, has a dedicated incident report system and records location data for the duration of the ride. We have over 3,700 users and handle hundreds of requests each month with no reported incidents.’

The States police said that genuine lift shares cause ‘no concern at all’ but unregulated taxi services place the driver at risk of prosecution for insurance offences and passengers at risk of being driven by an uninsured driver.

The force added that it would also pass information about illegal taxi drivers to the Taxes Office and Social Security Department.

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