More complaints of taxi drivers avoiding ACC jobs

11:53 am on 16 September 2019

More taxi users have complained about slack service when ACC is footing the bill for their ride.

Taxis in Adelaide

Photo: 123rf

Last week RNZ reported Auckland woman Rachel Scott's story. She had two stints of ACC in the last four years, both marred by days of Blue Bubble taxis arriving up to an hour late or not at all.

Drivers told her it was because they were paid up to 10 percent less for an ACC job, so would ditch it for a better offer if they could.

At the time, RNZ was told her case was probably a one-off.

But since then others have been in touch and confirmed what Ms Scott suspected all along - she was not the only one this was happening too.

Auckland woman Adele Holmes, who was on ACC twice in the last two years and using taxis to get to work, said drivers were upfront with her that they were paid less for the job.

"On a couple of occasions, I was told by the drivers that sometimes the jobs would be cancelled because they accepted a much lower pay."

She said others she spoke to about it were not surprised.

"Pretty much everyone I know that's ever had to use the ACC services has told a similar story. No one's blaming the drivers, but what's challenging is that every time I rung Blue Bubble or my ACC case manager, I was told it was an isolated incident which I know not to be true."

When Wellington woman Maree broke her ankle six years ago she was told by ACC to use Green Cabs to get to and from work.

It did not go well.

"I live up 60 steps so I would struggle my way down on crutches and then stand there waiting in the cold, because it was winter, for a taxi to turn up and it just wouldn't turn up.

"This happened every day for about three weeks."

She said it showed there was a problem with the system.

"It's not just Auckland, it's not just one taxi company, it was quite common here in Wellington as well. So clearly there is something quite different for those drivers supplying ACC, isn't there?"

Another customer, forwarded RNZ this email complaint they laid in 2016 with Auckland Co-Op.

"Why did it take one hour for a taxi to arrive My partner was very upset and not only has she got a broken arm to deal with she now has to deal with the fall out with her work managers. The same scenario occurred a couple of days later. The exact same thing happened.

"Why are other taxi jobs being prioritised over mine"

What is TaxiCharge and how is it involved?

ACC's taxi contract is with accounts company TaxiCharge.

Bob Wilkinson, the head of New Zealand's largest taxi organisation, Blue Bubble, said their drivers were independent contractors and got paid directly by TaxiCharge.

He said the more frequently they chose to have their TaxiCharge accounts settled, weekly, fortnightly or monthly, the higher their transaction fee would be.

He said this was the case for all TaxiCharge jobs not just ACC.

Mr Wilkinson said it was unacceptable that drivers would avoid an ACC job, and the ones that were doing it were not managing their business well and could face stand-down penalties.

In a statement, ACC said it was still collating data so could not say for sure how many other complaints there had been.

"ACC treats all complaints seriously. In the case of Ms Scott, who featured in your previous report, we escalated her complaints and our concerns to TaxiCharge.

"Until we have the data on complaints, it would be inappropriate for ACC to put someone up for an interview because they would just be speculating."

An ACC spokesperson said as of next month, its TaxiCharge contract, which it has had since 2005, would be replaced with a contract with four taxi providers.

The new contract is for three years with two rights of renewal of two years each.

In 2018, ACC spent $18 million on 511,219 taxi rides.

TaxiCharge has not responded to requests for an interview.