At any moment, taxis are seeing call volume plummet after a bizarre glitch has devastated business and may mean a rebrand
A Plymouth taxi company has been hit with a devastating loss of business after a bizarre phone glitch prevented hundreds of calls from reaching it. Union Street-based Anytime Taxis has seen its journeys cut dramatically after its phone line stopped accepting calls from anyone not on the BT/EE network.
The highly unusual issue appears to be because the company’s landline number – 247365 – was given to them in error and can be claimed by a business elsewhere in the UK. Phone provider BT has launched an investigation and the tech giant said it was doing everything possible to resolve the issue.
But that has left Anytime Taxis, a growing business that only launched in December 2021, without full phone access for a week now and no idea when the nightmare scenario will be rectified. This has already cost him hundreds in lost fares and a potentially huge future problem as all of his vehicles and premises are branded with the phone number and indeed he had chosen the number 247365 as it represented that he was open 24 hours a day. 24, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
READ NEXT: Plymouth MP Luke Pollard calls for justice for LGBTQ military ban victims
“The company started with this number,” said Ben Burgess, owner of Anytime Taxis. “It’s on all our cars and the Union Street office – it’s the heart of the business.”
The crisis began for the taxi company, a BT customer, at 5.30pm on Friday June 17, when calls from any provider other than BT or EE, which merged with BT in 2016, ceased to be connected to the line fixed from his office. At first the company did not realize why the usual volume of Friday night bookings was dropping and Mr Burgess said: ‘From until midnight we had 31 calls – normally there would be over 200.’
It wasn’t until the company started receiving messages from customers asking if it had gone bankrupt that it realized something was wrong. Mr Burgess said: ‘Our calls have dropped significantly, 90% of our work comes from phone calls. I continue to receive emails and Facebook messages from our customers asking me if we have closed or gone bankrupt, but we are still operating fully and taking reservations 24 hours a day.
However, he explained that the company’s drivers, all self-employed, are losing income as a result, and said: ‘They are running out of money. One has already left because he does not earn enough.
If the company ends up needing to rebrand it will be very expensive, and Mr Burgess said a compensation claim could take months to resolve. Anytime Taxis has eight private hire vehicles, two Hackney black cabs and an eight-seater minibus.
If anyone wants to hire them, they can contact the company through their Facebook page or there is an app that can be downloaded. There is also a back office number – 01752 422046 – which is used as a temporary solution and people can call it to book rides.
“But we call ourselves Anytime Taxis,” Mr Burgess said. “Our whole brand is that, the business is based on that number.”
BT said it was trying to sort out the situation, but admitted it was complicated and unusual. The problem appears to stem from the allocation of the number, which is done via a porting (transfer) method regulated by Ofcom.
READ NEXT: Nominations are open for the 2022 Plymouth Live Business Awards
Under this system, people and businesses changing provider can keep their old number and it is simply transferred. But if they choose to have a new number, the old one can be given to someone else.
It’s possible the problem arose because another phone company may have mistakenly transferred the number 247365 from their list of assigned numbers, and it was then assigned to Anytime Taxis by Ofcom. A BT spokesperson said: ‘It is not 100% clear how this happened and we are trying to get to the bottom of it and offer options and solutions to the customer.
“This error has unfortunately resulted in the customer having only had limited service on their line for the past week. This situation is beyond BT’s control, but we are doing everything we can to work with others parties involved in order to resolve the issue.We apologized to the customer for this and are updating them today as we try to find a solution as soon as possible.
Get the stories that matter most to your inbox daily by clicking here
BT drops plans to replace analogue landlines after backlash
Former Plymouth Taxi rivals join forces
Shortage of taxis in Plymouth, only two black taxi drivers are under 30
Plymouth taxi drivers want to stop new green and white taxi rule
Plymouth named one of the safest places in the UK for a night out