Car insurance firms could invalidate your policy if you are caught taking money off people for lifts across town. Social media groups have been set up to offer lifts to fellow citizens who do not wish to pay steep prices for a proper taxi service. Locals often put on the group where they want to travel to and drivers can then offer their services and quote prices to wow customers. Driving a stranger is not illegal at all and many offer lifts to friends and family, but charging for these services could land you in trouble.
If a driver is found to have made a profit via lift-sharing in an unlicensed vehicle could face up to a £2,500 and potential prosecution.
Some unlucky motorists could even have their vehicle immediately seized by the authorities.
Car insurance policies will not cover motorists who are illegally making a profit and being caught could invalidate all policies you currently have out.
Drivers are allowed to receive money for fuel costs but unlicensed drivers cannot make a profit from the lifts.
Advertising online and regularly taking in work could see officials charging drivers with illegally operating as a taxi firm.
Dorset police exposed a series of offenders in the Bournemouth area in early 2018.
More than 5,000 people were revealed to be members of the Bournemouth and Poole Town lift group on social media outlet Facebook.
Offences have continued into 2019 and officers stopped and check 125 vehicles across one weekend in January this year.
Bournemouth council’s licensing board were told that a number of those stopped were providing an informal taxi service to the community.
In a statement posted on their Facebook page, Dorset Police revealed they were aware of the groups and urged drivers to consider their own safety when choosing a mode of transport.
The statement said: “When getting into a vehicle with an unlicensed and un-vetted stranger, you have no knowledge of their background and risk your own personal safety.
“Please consider an alternative journey one, either by contacting a trusted friend or relative, catching a bus or using a licensed taxi
“Before offering a lift in exchange for money, you should speak to your insurance company as this could invalidate your insurance and may result in your vehicle being seized by police, a fixed penalty or prosecution resulting in a fine, points on your licence for disqualification from driving.”
A BBC investigation into the practice showed drivers were often trading the online lift service like a business, with drivers even taking bookings.
The illegal trade has caused some concern for local taxi businesses who rely on a steady flow of customers to keep a company afloat.
The BBC revealed the area’s registered taxi companies say trade is down 25 percent due to the loss of customers from illegal drivers.
However, local firms say the trade can cope with the loss of custom, with the main priority being on the passengers that are putting their safety at risk.
Speaking to the Bournemouth Echo, the Chair of the Bournemouth Joint Taxi Trades Association, Kevin Holmes said: “It’s a big issue – not for our drivers, but for the passengers accepting these lifts.
“These people are not insured to do the work. I don’t know how they are going to stop it. It’s a worry. The trade can cope but we’re worried about safety.”