updated 01:13 pm EDT, Thu May 29, 2014
Transport for London requests ruling over Uber legality in UK
Uber is not breaking the law by offering an app-based private hire service in London, the city's transport authority has ruled. While Transport for London (TfL) has sided with Uber and other similar services, the authority has referred the matter to the High Court and asked for a legally binding ruling, because of the considerable interest by disgruntled black cab drivers.
The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) claims the app used by Uber and services similar to it break the law, by imitating a taximeter, reports the BBC. Only licensed vehicles can legally use a taximeter, which calculates the appropriate fees for a journey based on distance, duration, and time of day, with the LTDA arguing the app mimics this functionality using a smartphone's GPS and passing data back to Uber's servers. Since a taximeter requires a physical connection to the vehicle, something a smartphone running the app does not need, TfL has issued a "provisional view" that the app is not breaking the law.
TfL also claims it has checked into Uber's record keeping and business model as part of its "largest ever compliance investigation," and found Uber meets all current requirements, including checking the licensing and insurance of its drivers. Even so, TfL has passed it to the courts, as there is a considerable "level of concern among the trade," and it believes "some of the legislation in this area is unclear" and open to misinterpretation. "We will be asking the High Court to provide a binding ruling," said Managing Director of Surface Transport for TfL Leon Daniels. "This is the sensible approach, and we hope that London's taxi drivers and private hire drivers and operators will work with us to bring clarity on this issue."
The LTDA has fought back against this decision, with general secretary Steve McNamara telling the BBC "The taxi trade has no confidence in TfL and its legal team whatsoever and we will be issuing proceedings of our own. This attitude demonstrates why we are being forced to demonstrate. TfL is simply not fit for purpose."
Black cab drivers are planning a protest on June 11th, attempting to cause gridlock in central London on that day. Drivers have also vandalized the offices of Hailo, an app that previously provided the ability to hail cabs from the app but changed stance to start up its own private hire service.
The issues in London echo similar clashes between app-based private hire services and taxi authorities in other parts of the world, including issues in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Washington D.C. The issues in France have led to authorities putting a law in place delaying drivers from picking up passengers by 15 minutes, all to appease taxi drivers.