Taxi passengers should be on high alert for drivers demanding hefty upfront fees this Christmas, following reports some cabbies are exploiting the rules to gouge customers.
Taxi Council of Queensland president Benjamin Wash said that one driver's recent insistence a passenger pay $130 in advance for a trip from Fortitude Valley to Boondall was unreasonable.
Though drivers are allowed to ask for fares in advance as part of a deposit or a full-price negotiated with customers, Mr Wash said charges should not exceed the average cost of the trip.
“That's a bit excessive,” he said. “But we do know it is happening.”
Mr Wash said some cab companies provided fare calculators to help customers avoid being gouged. And passengers travelling from secure ranks in the city or Valley could also ask the cab wardens for advice.
But there was nothing illegal in haggling for a fixed fare with a driver at the start of a journey, Mr Walsh said.
“But we do advise against it in case the passenger winds up with a rough deal,” he said.
“And we'd still like to make sure the meter goes on. At the end of the day, it's in everyone's interests to make sure there's a good time had and no one is ripped off, and everyone needs to play their part.
“And it's important to remember that taxi fare evasion is illegal. We're encouraging everyone to make sure they're carrying cash or a card before embarking on their journey.”
James Shanley, the passenger who was asked for $130 up-front by a driver in the Valley last weekend, said he'd been annoyed by the experience, though it was the first time he'd had it happen in Brisbane.
"I've only ever had this happen to me once before with a driver on the Gold Coast who demanded $80 before he went anywhere," he said.
"If halfway cost about $40 his quote of $130 just didn't add up to me. We didn't even have that much cash on us because we only had what we though we would need. It seems unfair to me to take advantage of customers this way at 3AM in the Valley after we had waited in the cab rank for about a half hour."
But Mr Shanley said he thought being able to agree on a reasonable fixed-price was a good idea, especially if there was a chance to make the journey at a cheaper price.
Mr Wash said Brisbane's Christmas cab crunch time had been improved over the years through things such as secure ranks and mobile phone booking apps.
Though the council was concerned about a number of "fake" cab apps on the market, Mr Wash said those authorised by the big taxi companies had vastly improved wait times and service delivery.
“And the secure ranks give passengers access to safe waiting space and wardens who are a wealth of information,” he said.
“Our wardens are all former taxi drivers. If you have a question about how much a fare should be, or anything else, we'd encourage passengers to take advantage of their knowledge.”
Secure ranks operate every Friday and Saturday nights across major party destinations, with the Fortitude Valley Warner Street rank also operating as an optional "zone" system where a maxi-cab can be shared with others going in the same direction for a prepaid agreed fare.
Secure cab ranks have operated in Brisbane for four years and were included as a key part of the former Labor government's Drink Safe Precinct Trial now under review by the Newman administration.
Earlier this month, Fairfax Media revealed that the $8.5 million, 12-month trial had been extended to February without full funding, despite the acknowledgement of Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie that the push-back aimed to “provide peace of mind to Queenslanders ... during schoolies week and the festive season”.
Mr Wash said the secure ranks would continue to operate regardless of the outcome of the DSP review.
The results of the review were due to be handed to Mr Bleijie last month.