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Introduction

We are responsible for licensing hackney carriages that operate in our area, more commonly known as ‘taxis’.

Taxis can be identified by council issued licence plates which they must display on the back of the car. These plates feature, amongst other things, the vehicle’s registration number and a unique identification number, commonly referred to as the ‘plate number’. If you want to complain about a taxi, it is helpful to make a note of the registration number or plate number.

Hiring a taxi

Many taxis have roof signs, often referred to as ‘top hats’ which, when lit up, indicate the taxi is ready to be hired.

You can hire a taxi in one of the following ways:

  • from a designated taxi rank
  • by flagging one down, also known as ‘hailing’ a taxi
  • with a booking, having contacted and agreed one with the driver or operator in advance

Taxi ranks

Taxi ranks are designated places for taxis to wait for customers. They are places where other vehicles should not park.

You can choose to travel in any taxi that is waiting on a rank, but drivers sometimes guide customers to taking the taxi at the front of the rank, as its driver will have been waiting the longest.

Private hire vehicles

We also license private hire vehicles, which are vehicles with up to 8 seats that are available to be booked in advance only. They must also display a council issued licence plate, similar to ones issued to taxis.

Licensed drivers

All licensed drivers have a council issued badge, which they should wear at all times when working. The badge will have a number on it and if you want to complain about a taxi, it is helpful to make a note of this number. You should not use a taxi if the driver cannot show you their badge.

The driver of a taxi cannot refuse a fare, unless they have a reasonable excuse, for example the customer is being aggressive or abusive. They should not refuse a fare because the journey is too short.

Fares

The cost of using a taxi depends on when and how far you travel. The total cost of using a taxi is called the ‘fare’.  We have set the maximum rate for fares that the taxi drivers we license can charge.

Somerset Council was formed on the 1 of April 2023, replacing Somerset County Council and the four district Councils of Somerset (Mendip, Sedgemoor, South Somerset and Somerset West and Taunton). Each of the districts had its own taxi and private hire licensing arrangements, with policies and taxi fares different from one another.  Those different maximum rates of fares still exist for the time being.

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Taxi fares in the Mendip area

With effect from April 2022

PDF, 116 KB

Each taxi should have the maximum rate of fares displayed clearly inside, for customers to see.

Taxis licensed by other councils will be ruled by different maximum rates of fares, therefore fares do vary across the UK. If you are planning a trip or night out and will need to use a taxi, it is a good idea to phone different companies, who are local to that area, in advance and to get an idea of costs. You must ensure you will be able to pay the full fare.

Maximum fares

Maximum rates of fares often include a ‘soiling charge’. This is what the customer must pay if they are unwell or have an accident and the taxi becomes dirty. This charge covers the cost of having the car cleaned and what money the driver might lose by having to take it off the road for the remainder of that day or night.

The exact fare that a driver can demand from a customer will be calculated by the meter they have fitted in their vehicle. The driver cannot demand anything more than is shown on the meter, except the soiling charge and any other extra charges shown on the Council’s maximum rate of fares.

Payment

Customers who refuse to pay the full amount, including the soiling charge (if applicable), or leave without paying are breaking the law and can be prosecuted. Although some drivers are equipped to take card payments, many are not, and customers should therefore be ready to pay in cash.

The driver or company and customer can agree a fixed price upfront, and this can be less than what might be shown on the meter at the end of the journey. The driver must always use the meter, whether they agreed a price up front, so that they can demonstrate to the customer that they have not been overcharged. The driver must not start the meter until the vehicle has set off.

Destinations outside Somerset

Fares for destinations outside Somerset may be negotiated between the customer and driver/company before the journey. If no fare is agreed before the start of the journey, then the maximum fare will be that shown on the meter at the end of the journey.

Wheelchair accessible vehicles

If you use a wheelchair, the drivers of vehicles that appear on the list of wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) are required by law to:

  • carry you while in your wheelchair
  • not make any additional charge for doing so
  • carry your wheelchair, if you choose to sit in a passenger seat
  • carry you safely and in reasonable comfort.

The driver should also provide you with mobility assistance if needed:

  • to help you to get into or out of the vehicle
  • to help you to get into and out of the vehicle while in your wheelchair if you want to travel in your wheelchair
  • to load your luggage into or out of the vehicle
  • to load your wheelchair into or out of the vehicle if you don’t want to remain in the wheelchair.

Some drivers may be exempt from carrying wheelchairs and providing mobility assistance on medical grounds. Drivers who are exempt will have a bright orange exemption notice on display in their vehicle.

There are no extra charges for carrying assistance dogs.

You can find our registers on our Public registers page.

Lost property

If you have left something in a taxi and you pre-booked your journey, we recommend that you contact the operator you booked with. This way you can arrange to collect the item if found.

Licensed drivers must hand in any property left in their vehicle at a local Police station, within 72 hours of finding it but are encouraged to try and contact the owner first or return the item themselves, where possible.

Contact Avon and Somerset Police to report an item of lost property, or to check whether an item has been handed in, using the non-emergency telephone number, 101.

Complain about a taxi or private hire vehicle, driver or operator

We are responsible for licensing taxi and private hire vehicles, their drivers and the businesses that take private hire vehicle bookings, called ‘operators’.

Licensed vehicles can be identified by Council branded licence plates, displayed on the back of the car. Licensed drivers are identified by a photographic ID badge, which they must wear.

There are rules that licence holders must follow. They are also expected to be ‘fit and proper’.

Things that should be reported include:

  • unsafe driving
  • unsafe vehicles
  • someone acting as a taxi or private hire without a licence
  • taxi drivers not using their meter, even if the price of the journey (the ‘fare) was agreed beforehand
  • taxi drivers demanding more than the amount shown on their meter
  • taxi drivers unnecessarily taking a longer route to your destination or stopping for a period of time without a good reason, causing the fare to go up
  • drivers being abusive and aggressive
  • drivers refusing to carry assistance dogs or wheelchairs without valid reason, such as a medical exemption certificate
  • drivers making sexual comments and asking for or accepting sexual favours.

Complaints about dangerous driving, assault or theft should also be reported to the Police.

It is important that issues get reported or they cannot be dealt with. Your name and address will not be shared with anyone without your permission.

You can complain about a licensed person or vehicle in the Mendip area using the link below.

What happens after a complaint is made

  • A record is created, and an officer will investigate your complaint and collect all available evidence, including taking statements from the driver of the vehicle and any other witnesses. You may be asked to provide more information.
  • Before taking any further action, the officer will be required to prove the allegation i.e. whatever it is that you have complained about. To prove the allegation, the officer must be satisfied that the allegation was more likely to have happened, than not happened.
  • If an allegation is proven, the Council may take a number of different actions, depending on the nature and seriousness of the complaint, as well as the track record of the person complained about. This includes:
    • giving advice
    • an informal warning
    • a formal, written warning
    • suspending their licence
    • revoking of their licence
    • prosecuting them.

Last reviewed: December 20, 2023 by Jenny

Next review due: June 20, 2024

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