There is a new App in town which is causing taxi drivers across the globe to arrange protests and even call on governments to ban it altogether. This App is called ‘Uber’, and it allows users to book a taxi using their mobile phones; however, many taxi drivers claim that Uber’s drivers are breaking the law and that the government should do something to stop them. Here, DNA Insurance looks the global issue in more detail:
What is ‘Uber’?
The creators of Uber wanted to revolutionise the way in which we use taxis, which is why they created an App enabling users to quickly book a private hire taxi via their mobile phones. The App also provides users information concerning the taxi driver that will be picking them up, including their name and photo. The App also lets approved friends ‘follow’ your journey via a map on their mobile phone and users can also have the route which their driver took emailed to them in order to ensure that they took the fastest option and didn’t try and overcharge them. The creators of Uber claim that this new technology enables passengers to stay safe when in a taxi and enables self-employed taxi drivers to run their businesses more effectively without the support of a taxi firm.
Why are London Taxi Drivers protesting?
The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) has recently complained to Transport for London (TfL) about Uber’s drivers as they believe they are breaking the law. This is because Uber’s drivers can use the App in order to calculate fares, which is illegal for private hire vehicles and can void taxi insurance policies. However, Transport for London have claimed that as drivers’ mobile phones aren’t connected to their vehicles, they are not technically breaking the law. TfL added: “We have seen no evidence to suggest that Uber London Ltd are not fit and proper to hold a London private hire vehicle operator’s licence, but no final decisions have been made whilst Uber’s operating model is still under investigation.”
Complaints against Uber
Even though TfL has claimed that Uber is not breaking the rules when it comes to private hire vehicle operator’s licences, Steve McNamara, LTDA’s general secretary, argues that Uber is dangerous to both the public and the UK’s taxi industry. He added: “Transport for London not enforcing the Private Hire Vehicles Act is dangerous for Londoners. I anticipate that the demonstration against TfL’s handling of Uber will attract many many thousands of cabs and cause severe chaos, congestion and confusion across the metropolis.”
The LTDA’s demonstration is planned to take place at the beginning of June, and so far it seems that TfL has done little to discourage them. Steve McNamara also claimed that Uber “has a stated aim of challenging legislation that is not compatible with its business model. This is not some philanthropic friendly society, it’s an American monster that has no qualms about breaching any and all laws in the pursuit of profit, most of which will never see a penny of tax paid in the UK.”
London Taxi Drivers are not the first to protest against Uber being used in their country, in fact the company had to pay a ten thousand Euro (£8,205) fine in Brussels after a court decided that drivers were picking up passengers without the necessary licences. Meanwhile, Berlin’s taxi association has won a temporary injunction against the firm, while in France the government has banned private car services from using GPS-enabled apps such as Uber altogether.
However, Uber’s general manager in London, Jo Bertram, doesn’t sound too worried, as he said: “Competition in my view is always good for the customer because it makes all of us up our game in terms of quality and service. On the driver side, we offer a much more flexible model that is very different from the old-school private hire industry, that allows them to work as independent business operators however and whenever they choose.”