Consumer Skills
30th January 2004


Did you know that more than one million people here used taxis in the past year, but more than half had no idea what the fare was before their journey started? This is one of the issues raised by taxi users in the General Consumer Council’s latest report, Talking About Taxis.

The report is issued today (30 January) and aims to provide information, promote debate and raise awareness of the issues affecting taxi users ahead of the upcoming consultation on the taxi industry from the Department of Environment's, due in Spring 2004. It also highlights consumer tips on complaining and how to get the best fare. (Attached to this press release).


Talking about Taxis found that taxis are an important part of Northern Ireland's transport network with many people relying on them as their sole means of getting around. However, there are problems with illegal operators and poor complaints handling by taxi operators.


Other key findings in the report include:

  • Younger consumers are most likely to use taxis but they are important for all age groups.
  • Four out of five consumers (79%) use taxis for leisure and social purposes.
  • Around three out of four consumers (73%) use taxis after 6pm at night.
  • 51% of public hire taxi users and 37% of private hire taxi users feel they have been overcharged at one time.
  • More than half (52%) of those who complained were not happy with the response received. 

 Alan Walker, Head of Consumer Affairs at the Council said:


“Taxis are part of every day life here and the number of people using them is rising. Consumers want safe, reliable taxis that are reasonably priced and provide value for money. They also want clear and timely information so that they can make informed choices about taxi operators. Importantly, they want to know that there is an effective system for making and dealing with complaints.”


The Council believes that the forthcoming review of the taxi industry should result in:

  • increased standards of service for all consumers
  • more legal entrants to the taxi industry and remove illegal operators
  • improved consumer protection and awareness
  • a framework for competitive and reasonable fares for all.

Alan Walker added:


“The forthcoming consultation is an important opportunity to bring about improvements that will benefit both consumers and the taxi industry to ensure a fairer deal for all in the future. We hope that Talking about Taxis will help inform the debate as it moves forward.”


In the production of Talking about taxis the General Consumer Council worked with the Department of the Environment to update previous Council research carried out in 1997.




1.General Consumer Council media contact: Susie Brown, telephone, 028 9067 4807 or e-mail, [email protected]

2 The General Consumer Council is an independent consumer organisation, working to bring about change to benefit Northern Ireland's consumers. The Council campaigns for high standards of service and protection and a fair deal for all. It also carries out research, gives advice and publishes reports and other publications. It deals with individual complaints about electricity, natural gas, coal and passenger transport.

3. For more information, visit our website at Copies of the report are available from the General Consumer Council on 028 9067 2488 or can be downloaded from the website at


Consumer Tips for using taxis

Tips on Complaining

  • Make your complaint as soon as possible.
  • Plan what you want to say.
  • Provide information such as the driver's identification and time and location of the trip.
  • Be polite and speak clearly and firmly.
  • Stay calm.
  • Don't make a fist, point your finger or get aggressive.
  • Be persistent.
  • Complain in writing if you don't get satisfaction at first.
  • Keep records of letters, telephone calls, receipts and bills.
  • Don't forget to say thank you if your complaint is handled well.


How to get a Fare Deal

  • Belfast Public Hire taxis are the only sector of the industry where fares are regulated. For journeys outside this area, it is advised to request an estimated cost for the journey at the time of booking or prior to boarding the taxi.
  • As well as asking what the fare is before booking the service, also check the price with the driver.
  • Ask when the booked taxi can be expected to arrive.
  • Anticipate demand for service, by pre-booking and checking prices at busy times such as New Year.
  • Look for proper identification of the vehicle and the driver before departing.
  •  When possible, build up a relationship with a taxi company that provides a good service.