Free Now promises payment to drivers amid calls for investigation

18 Aug 2020181 Views

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Issues with Free Now’s payments processor have been blamed for delayed driver payments, but some in Government believe an investigation is needed.

Free Now – the taxi app formerly called MyTaxi and Hailo – has missed a further deadline for driver payments, with up to 14,000 drivers in Ireland awaiting owed funds. According to The Irish Times, this is the fourth time the deadline has been missed in the space of two weeks, with some drivers owed up to an estimated €1,000 each.

The company behind the app – owned by BMW and Daimler – has said the delays are outside of its control, holding its payments processor Wirecard Bank responsible. The Free Now group said it is now looking to another third-party payments processor to help speed up payments.

Wirecard Bank is part of the wider Wirecard group, which announced in June that it had filed for insolvency after admitting that €1.9bn had gone missing from its accounts.

With Free Now, customers can use debit or credit card payments for taxi fares through its app. However, drivers only receive a lump sum for these trips at the end of the week, minus the commission taken by Free Now.

In a statement to the Irish Times, Free Now said it is trying to pay drivers “as soon as possible”. It apologised for the delay in payments and said it would run this week’s payment a day early.

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“We are working hard to ensure drivers are paid as soon as possible, we appreciate that this delay is unacceptable and that is why we are doing everything we can to resolve this,” Free Now said.

‘New legislation may be required’

However, Fianna Fáil TD Cormac Devlin has called on Minister for Climate Action, Communications Networks and Transport Eamon Ryan, TD, to ask the National Transport Authority to investigate the matter.

“The company has missed several deadlines leaving thousands of taxi drivers uncertain about when they will be paid,” Devlin wrote.

“Ultimately new legislation may be required to ensure companies with the market share of Free Now have adequate liquidity and are properly bonded to ensure drivers’ funds are secure.”

In April, it was announced that French ride-hailing app Kapten – rebranded from Chauffeur-Privé last year – was to merge with Free Now amid restructuring across its entire European team due to financial issues. In a statement at the time, Free Now said that the restructuring was needed to reduce costs to offset the financial implications of the coronavirus pandemic.

Colm Gorey is a senior journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

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