back to article London officials won't take Uber to court – because cabbies are suing the drivers anyway

Car-ride booking service Uber has won a victory in London, UK, as the city's transport authority has decided not to pursue action against the biz after all. Transport for London (TfL) said in a statement to reporters that the San Francisco-headquartered company would not be be subject to further scrutiny by TfL over whether it …

  1. ratfox Silver badge
    Flame

    Nice

    The taxi industry is overregulated to protect the incumbents. If the cabbies think Uber is making too much money, they should join.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Nice

      +1

      The cabbies should stop complaining and order some GPS enabled taximeters so I can see exactly how many times did they go around LHR before taking me to my destination.

      1. keithpeter
        Windows

        Re: Nice

        "TfL noted that while Uber needs to clarify certain elements of how its operates with regards to its Netherlands-based Uber BV branch"

        Provided tax income is maintained, I remain neutral on this issue.

        The Tramp: can't afford taxis. Can't pay with money for buses in London. Shank's pony.

  2. YetAnotherLocksmith
    Pirate

    Insurance?

    I thought running as a "paid more than the cost of the fuel" service was classed as "for hire or reward" & as such specifically excluded from regular insurance policies. Private 'car sharing for reward' is surely not insured then, unless the driver has a commercial cover policy?

    Or are they running like a taxi (mini cab) firm but arguing the fares are pure booked through the app?

    (Sorry, I live in the middle of nowhere; I've taken one taxi in the last two years. As such I'm not up on the details)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Insurance?

      A thoroughly thought-out and well researched post, thank you so much for your contribution.

      Idiot.

    2. 142
      Facepalm

      Re: Insurance?

      @YetAnotherLocksmith

      .......what in the name of...?

      You're adding 2 + 2 together and getting Z.

      They're just licensed mini-cab drivers, operating independently. Fully professional, fully legal - has been for years and years. The only thing that's up for debate is their billing procedure.

    3. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: Insurance?

      They are registered as a private hire service, and the drivers are registered as private hire vehicles. Other private hire services give you a quote for the journey before the vehicle is sent to you, which may be based on distance, traffic conditions etc, and if you accept that quote, that is what you pay, regardless of what happens on the road afterwards.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Insurance?

        So not "a ride-sharing service and allow users to coordinate paid car-pooling rather than for-hire taxis" as they claim? It may just be bad reporting, but the explanation of how it works seems to change depending on the argument being made at the time.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Insurance?

          They are different in each jurisdiction, they have a service allowed for by local legislation. So in the UK you have to be a registered private hire or hackney driver to be allowed to pick up for hire and reward so that is what Uber allows in the UK. Uber also require certain age and class of vehicles.

          In some countries they don't have such restrictions so they extend to car pooling.

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Insurance?

      My insurance company tossed in cover for "hire or reward", pointing out when they offered it that including it made zero difference to the premium if it wasn't a primary use.

  3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Lawfare in action

    Nothing new here.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Lamp Lighters Association lost

    "That pesky 'lectricity, it'll never catch on"

    "If it does, we'd all better get solid jobs, like Chimney Sweeps"...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Or they could consider joining the first part of the 21st century...

    ...and accept debit cards.

    The number that are CASH ONLY is shockingly bad.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Or they could consider joining the first part of the 21st century...

      cash only == easy to fiddle your income statements. I'm sure HMRC would be interested to know which cabbies are doing that.

      Banks to tend to rape and pillage on fees for merchants who make a lot of small transactions. In one business I ran, most of the transactions were under £10 and the effective commission rate was 30%

      They hide it well - there are fees for the device, access, set fees per transaction, plus couple of percent and extra fees if the average transaction size is under £20. I find it surprising that most merchants don't run a £10 minimum card transaction rule. (some do £5, but the vast majority happily allow customers to clock charges under a quid, which is just plain silly)

      1. ukgnome

        Re: Or they could consider joining the first part of the 21st century...

        most of the transactions were under £10 and the effective commission rate was 30%???

        Not these days, a terminal that plugs into your iPhone costs £60 and only charges 2.7% for any transaction.

      2. The First Dave Silver badge

        Re: Or they could consider joining the first part of the 21st century...

        How the hell do you get a cab fare that is under a quid? It costs more than that to just sit down.

      3. Arion

        Re: Or they could consider joining the first part of the 21st century...

        > I find it surprising that most merchants don't run a £10 minimum card transaction rule. (some

        > do £5, but the vast majority happily allow customers to clock charges under a quid, which is

        > just plain silly)

        You're entitled to your opinion. You're also wrong.

        The retailer who turns away my card when I want to buy something, becomes the bastard ( or bitch ), who wouldn't take my card last time, when the time comes that I want to buy something more expensive, and go to a competing supplier.

        If it costs you 30p to take a pound of my card, then why don't you just charge me the 30p, or 30% ( for transactions under a fiver or a tenner or whatever ). If I want a coke and I'm out of cash, I don't really care if you take an extra 30p from my a/c. I just want my coke, and by just charging the 30%, I get my coke, you get your sale, and the bank ( or credit card company) gets their commission.

        Even if I do have cash, your willingness to accommodate me( even if it does involve extra charges) will make my more amenable to doing business with you again.

  6. Mr Trilby

    No Physical Connection

    If the smart phone has no physical connection with the vehicle, how does it stay in place? Does it float in mid air? I'd quite like a phone that does that.

  7. hoola Bronze badge

    TFL

    I think that it is important to look at what TFL is, an organisation run by Boris Johnson. Someone who will do whatever they want to get what they want and with many associations with exactly the sort of coroprations that run Uber.

    The fact that they have decided to drop the case is nothing to do with the legality. TFL would probably prefer a completely unregulated taxi system, the same as they would prefer to have a completely unstaffed tube system. If they could get the busses to drivie themselves BJ would do that as well.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Go

      Re: TFL

      And the problem with driverless trains is?

      Last time I looked, most train accidents are caused by drivers ignoring the red lights, failing to adhere to speed limits or failing to stop when they should. The other big cause is obstructions and again, a properly equipped automated system will be better at stopping in the vast majority of cases.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: TFL

        "most train accidents are caused by drivers ..."

        You may well be right,

        However, what you don't yet (and probably can't) know is what accidents are avoided because there are drivers on the train, accidents which would happen if there was not a driver on the train.

        Once you've got some sound statistical evidence for that, there's a meaningful dialogue to be had.

        Maybe twenty years ago I'd have been comfortable with the prospect of computer controlled trains in the right circumstances.

        Today, I see very little in their favour - much that I read about in the safety critical parts of the transport industry says exactly the opposite.

  8. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

    Sir

    I'm wondering what these cabbies' definition of a 'meter' is.

    If you are in a black cab and get stuck in traffic, the price of the trip increases above and beyond what a straight forward journey would cost.

    I haven't used Uber, but from what I've read it seems that they quote you a price based on where you are and where you are going to. If you get stuck in traffic for 5 minutes it doesn't increase the cost of the journey.

    So how the hell do they come to the conclusion that it is a meter? Desperate PR attempt that will just cost them more money and fares as they piss more and more people off with their protectionist attitude.

    1. DaLo

      Re: Sir

      Not quite true, the Uber app will quote but their fare structure is still based on distance and time and the final price is only after the journey has ended (you could ask for a diversion if you wanted to).

      Still doesn't make it a meter as these are a specific type with regulations surreounding them that are installed in the car and calculate locally.

      The Uber meter has no car connection and calculates the fare remotely, it just collects distance and time information.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Re: Sir

        Ah ok, thanks for the clarification. I thought the price was quoted up-front (I would have thought a diversion would require a re-quote but not otherwise).

        If the price changes based on time spent then I can see why the Cabbies think it's like a meter.

      2. Falmari

        Re: Sir

        " but their fare structure is still based on distance and time and the final price is only after the journey has ended "

        Then it is a meter, it might not be a local meter, but the journey is metered

        1. DaLo

          Re: Sir

          Is an odometer and a clock in the car also a meter? Do these need to be banned?

          Heck, they are actually connected to the car and the calculation is done locally - using the driver's head or a calculator!

          1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

            Re: Sir

            An odometer doesn't increase when you are stationary in traffic though does it?

            Oh and whilst we're on the subject, they don't reduce when you drive backwards either :P

            1. DaLo

              Re: Sir

              "An odometer doesn't increase when you are stationary in traffic though does it?"

              No but the clock does..

              "Is an odometer and a clock in the car also a meter?"

  9. Professor Clifton Shallot
  10. JMcQuay

    Private Hire Meters..?

    As a former Taxi & Private Hire Driver, it surprises me that Private Hire cars being operated without a meter is being brought up. In the region where I used to work (not in London I might add), private hire cars did not have to have a meter as they are only booked in advance. A price is often negotiated for the trip before it takes place. Some companies do fit meters to private hires, but it's not a requirement if the fare is pre-negotiated. The law is different for Hackney Carriages where you charge for roll-off, distance and waiting times; in this case an approved meter must be fitted. Some local authorities even stipulate what meters you can and cannot use.

    1. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: Private Hire Meters..?

      This is about a rule that is specific to London. There may be other cities apart from London that ban private hire vehicles from having meters, but in most other places, they are allowed.

  11. LucreLout Silver badge

    Anyone else enjoying the irony of the "Transformers: Age of Extinction" advert popping up on this story?

    A story about automotive dinosaurs fighting each other over the future of humanity, with an advert for a film of the same plot.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Joke

      advert popping

      There's adverts on El Reg?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: advert popping

        Are there adverts on this site?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: advert popping

          Ah ads, I used to have those.... but since I tweaked my hosts file.....

          127.0.0.1 is the road to peace and quiet

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: advert popping

            Or just use AdBlock....

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Are there adverts on this site?

          Ah, they must be Windows users.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    4 years learning the knowledge

    £30k of their own money to get their license

    Replaced by a £50 sat nav

    You can see why taxi drivers are pissed off but that's progress for you, they are dinosaurs

    Mini-cab drivers don't exactly have a rosy future with driver less cars either but they don't have the same sort of investment

    1. Arion

      i would split the cabbies into two categories; Those who got their licences before GPS became mainstream circa 2005, and idiots.

      Before GPS the cabbies knowledge was a much stronger actual advantage than it is today.

      Anyone who got their licence since, has been depending mostly on regulation to keep competitors off the road.

      We're living in an age of technological advancement, and throughout history advancement does make certain jobs obselete, and cabbies might just be the most recent example. It also creates new ones.

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/moneybuilder/2013/10/11/will-technology-make-us-all-jobless/

  13. Wyrdness

    Regardless of the rights or wrongs of Uber, the London Taxi Drivers Association suing individual Uber drivers is a really nasty tactic.

    1. LucreLout Silver badge

      "Regardless of the rights or wrongs of Uber, the London Taxi Drivers Association suing individual Uber drivers is a really nasty tactic."

      They'll be hoping to frighten off other drivers, or win a test case they can point to in future. Uber, if they have any sense, will financially back the first driver in court and ensure they win the fight.

    2. DavCrav Silver badge

      I thought that: companies suing individuals because the company is losing money from the individuals' behaviour is something I really don't like. Unless said company is given a £500 budget for legal fees, or has to pay for both sides legal fees and also has to appoint someone to deal with the situation in the stead of the individual, so there is no mental harm caused.

      My father was unlawfully dismissed from an organization (I am not allowed to name it due to a shameful gagging clause but it was one of the world's most famous charities) and they not only sacked him without any decent reason at all -- they fabricated evidence, barred union representation at his hearing, etc. -- they then drew out the unlawful dismissal case so long it started really affecting my dad's health, so when they offered a relatively miserly amount in settlement, he agreed.

      Bastards the lot of them.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is also the aspect of driver regulation

    While having a trawl to get details to understand how uber works, 100search engines gave a worrying number of cases of women being harrassed and stalked.

    The app apparently gives your full name and number by default to the random perv you may have driving you ( possibly other details too according to some of the interesting things that various women have subsequently experienced, at least in the US)

    If you are using a cab you have a driver number to quote, If you have booked by a minicab company you also have a line of complaint.and safety.

    As far as I could tell the only check appears to be valid private hire insurance.

    ( There may be "are you a psycho ? yes/no" type questions, but not enough time to dummy register).

    Because they say they are not a cab company they appear not to do what a cab company would be required to by law. They are "just a contact service" (for potentially cowboy cabs) reading between the lines they seem to take the attitude that vetting is done by customer complaints.

    When a woman is murdered by an Uber driver perhaps BJ will respond ?

  15. Smitty

    Just Like Dublin

    Up till 2000 there was a limited number of taxi licences in Dublin, and they were treated as property. If you wanted one you had to buy it from another driver and it could costs up to €100,000.

    Drivers didn't sign up for a pension scheme, instead they viewed the money they would get from the sale of their licence as their retirement fund. Bear in mind this was not legally sanctioned and the government had been warning drivers since the 80s that they should not rely on selling their licences for such high fees.

    The big problem with this system was that it was hard to get a taxi in Dublin and the drivers, with a very safe career, had no incentive to provide good customer service.

    Then the rules were changed, no limits to the number of licences and the fee would be a one off payment of €6,300. The existing drivers had a fit, they blockaded the airport and did go slows around Dublin. But the public loved it. Getting a taxi in Dublin is really easy now, before 2000 it could be very difficult if not impossible at times. There have also been lots of innovations, some companies offer a 20% discount on the meter fare, some even sell phone credit via the despatch system.

    The same thing is happening with Uber. The 'legacy' taxi drivers are trying to stop a service the public loves in order to protect their own interests. And just like Dublin, they will lose.

    It also worth noting that a lot of the pre-2000 drivers are still very bitter about what happened. They want limits on the number of licences and love to subtly play the race card by sticking tricolour flag stickers on their roof signs to let you know they aren't one of the new drivers, many of whom are immigrants And they are still trying to sue the government to recover what they see as lost income. Expect similar where Uber launches.

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