Friday 6 December 2019

Taxi body in talks with new insurer as prices rise by up to 300pc

'The cost of taxi insurance has spiralled by up to 300pc in the past year in some cases' File photo: Depositphotos
'The cost of taxi insurance has spiralled by up to 300pc in the past year in some cases' File photo: Depositphotos

Sarah McCabe

A representative body for taxis and hackneys is hoping to entice a new insurer to enter the market amid a massive spike in the cost of insuring their vehicles.

The cost of taxi insurance has spiralled by up to 300pc in the past year in some cases, according to the country's largest representative group for taxi and hackney drivers, the National Private Hire and Taxi Association (NPHTA).

NPHTA General secretary Christy Humphreys said his organisation is in discussions with a Lloyds of London syndicate in an attempt to secure a new insurer for the market and lower the costs for drivers.

Price hikes have been particularly steep for rented taxis, the NPHTA said. Last year, the average price of insurance for a driver renting a taxi ranged from €1,100 to €1,400, a spokesperson said, adding that this year it cost in the region of €3,000 to €4,000.

Drivers of privately owned taxis, meanwhile, have seen insurance costs rise by between 80pc and 110pc, in the association's experience.

There has also been a surge in the number of taxi and hackney drivers who have been refused insurance by three separate insurers, forcing them to appeal to industry body Insurance Ireland.

Providers of taxi insurance in Ireland include Axa, Allianz and Liberty.

In light of rising insurance costs, the NPHTA will also seek an increase in taxi fares, which are regulated, when the system is reviewed later this year. "Fares will have to go up to reflect the rise in costs," said Humphreys. "Though I can't see a situation where the full impact is passed on to consumers, it just wouldn't be fair - it's too much."

The rise in the cost of taxi insurance is putting drivers out of business, he added.

It is "virtually impossible" for new drivers with little experience to get taxi insurance, he said, citing a quote of €23,000 recently given to a driver seeking taxi insurance for the first time.

"It has a knock-on effect on the entire industry. Drivers can't upgrade their cars and are forced to work much longer hours, meaning the likelihood of accidents is higher - it's a vicious circle."

Insurance broker Brian J Pierce said taxi insurance prices have climbed so rapidly because the market was too competitive for several years.

"People were insuring taxis cheaper than private cars not too long ago. The market was far too soft. That caught up with people, alongside a rise in the cost of claims.

"I am 20 years in this business and this is the most severe it's ever been in terms of prices rising this sharply."

A spokesperson for Allianz defended rises in premiums for taxis, pointing out that their rates and pricing were simply based on statistical analysis.

"The Allianz taxi book is regularly reviewed and recent price increases - whilst regrettable from the consumer perspective - are necessary to maintain the provision of stable and sustainable taxi insurance by Allianz Ireland," said the spokesperson.

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