back to article Uber allowed to continue operating in English capital after winning appeal against Transport for London

Uber has won an appeal against Transport for London's decision not to renew the ride-hailing app biz's licence for the English capital, ending a three-year tussle between the pair. The ruling is the culmination of a hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court that ran a fortnight ago from 14 to 17 September, with deputy chief …

  1. IGotOut Silver badge

    I still don't get...

    ...why we just don't regulate them in the same way as minicabs.

    Am I missing something?

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: I still don't get...

      This appeal was to allow them to keep the London Private Hire Vehicle operator's license - so yes, treating them exactly the same as a minicab operator.

  2. Robert Grant Silver badge

    A leopard doesn't change its spots

    Was this insightful legal perspective delivered over the shoulder of an in-progress cabbie on a rant about the death penalty?

    1. BigSLitleP

      Re: A leopard doesn't change its spots

      Name one company that has improved itself after a ruling like this.

  3. Lee D Silver badge

    Choice:

    - Commercial service, operated by app, where the car arrives in minutes, lets you track the entire journey, takes you to your destination, charges a pittance and rates the drivers.

    - Wait until you can hail a cab, or use an inferior app that they only released reluctantly, then have an argument about "Sowff of da rivver?" and charge a fortune (including having to sustain the cab via only a single approved company that can repair/maintain/test them that does nothing else, and rules on what cabs are allowed or not).

    I've had far more refusal-to-carry in black cabs than ANYTHING else - minicabs, Ubers, etc. My disabled-ex and I tried to use black cabs until one day an entire taxi rank refused us because they were "about to knock off" for going from one tube station to another. She didn't even have her wheelchair, just a stick that day. They all refused.

    Sure, I should have reported them but post-reporting doesn't solve the fact that we had to travel by other methods because we'd have been late otherwise. Provide me deliberate bad service, and I go to a different service, rather than complain - it's that simple.

    Had the same several times, and a few years later with a non-disabled ex. They basically all said screw you because they didn't want to drive from a suburb into London.

    Uber - I've never had a refusal. Never had a safety issue (but, I'm sorry, just because you're with a black cab driver doesn't mean you're safe anyway!). I know I'm not going to be run round on an expensive diversion unnecessarily.

    But more importantly - they just work, and they are cheaper. "Safety" has never been something I've worried about in a vehicle where I desire a random stranger to drive me from A to B - minicabs are no different and sustain an entire industry of their own for the last 50 years. If you're in that position, and you're worried, you tell someone where you're going from and to and text the reg to a friend before you get in, surely? Uber lets you do that inside the app itself.

    Two members of my family are black cab drivers. Sorry, lads, but I'll use Uber every time. You want to compete, then compete. You want me to pay a premium just to facilitate your historical lifestyle, I'm afraid I have better things to do with my money.

    1. TonyJ Silver badge

      @Lee D

      Hard to take issue with any of what you are saying.

      I've worked extensively in various parts of London over the years as well as visited.

      On more than one occasion I've flagged a black cab to be told things like you describe - "not at this time of night...too far out of my way" or simply ignored. Which is great when you've had to work into the night and don't know the area.

      Don't get me wrong, I've had my share of charlatans with Uber as well - one who arrived late then proudly announced how he'd picked up some "foreigners - Jap I think" and dumped them in the middle of nowhere to get to my as soon as he could and two others who didn't know the destination address well enough in the centre of Nottingham* so dumped me half a mile away with a barely grunted apology and in both cases Uber weren't interested - just a shit-tonne of lies about only being able to get so close etc. but in those cases, I knew otherwise.

      However, at least Uber do, as you say, turn up when they say they will (usually) and take you where you need to go (usually) and you can track the journey on the app, share it with friends/family if required and generally cost significantly less than a hackney carriage.

      *Uber couldn't tell me why, in both of these cases, their drivers/cars were licensed in Wolverhampton. Something smelled bad about that but again...didn't care one jot.

    2. Insert sadsack pun here

      "sustain the cab via only a single approved company that can repair/maintain/test them that does nothing else, and rules on what cabs are allowed or not..."

      Eh? You sure about that? There are tons of black taxi repair places.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        There are only two types of taxi, in reality only one has the majority. Hence one supplier, one parts supply:

        "Two production vehicle models comply with the current conditions: the London Taxi Company TX4 and a specially-modified taxi variant of the Mercedes-Benz Vito with steerable rear wheels"

        There are only 6 testing stations, all run by one company NSL, and taxis have to pass two tests a year at them:

        https://www.quotax.net/new-taxi-inspection-centres-addresses/

        Taxis can only use authorised spare parts from the former in order to pass the latter. Though you can take it to "any repair shop" in theory, the parts, end-result and testing are still under monopoly control, effectively.

    3. IGotOut Silver badge

      Never understood the London black cab service.

      Can't go South of the river (yes had that as well) yet from Brum often had them doing 40 or 50 mile round trips with no hassle at all.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        And Black Cabs have never ever tried to charge tourists the fare on the meter multiplied by the number of people being carried...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Never had this problem in 25 years in London, despite a persistent foreign accent(*)

          Also haven't had anyone refusing to go "sarf" for a long time. I suppose that depend how far sarf you're going of course, but my usual haunts - Battersea, Clapham, Putney, Brixton, Dulwich - no problems, not for the last 10-15 years.

          * so persistent I was congratulated on my english by a Bangladeshi minicab driver once. I'm from NZ.

    4. Chz

      I agree whole-heartedly, but none of that means that Uber is a good company and well-managed. Anything but. It just means that the black cabs are worse!

      1. Mongrel

        I'd go with crappy but in different, not-equal ways.

  4. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    I wonder whether this has anything to do ...

    ... with the police wanting to keep Uber because they get such useful "intel" by having access to Uber's database? It is so useful to be able to retrospecively track the movements of millions of people each year with just a quick and simple computer search based on whatever terms your imagination can come up with. Truly a wet dream of any budding police state.

    1. Insert sadsack pun here

      Re: I wonder whether this has anything to do ...

      If only there were some way for people to know the judge's reasons for their decision! Maybe the judge could prepare some sort of summary, and then journalists from online publications could include a hyperlink to it in their reporting.

      1. Brian 3

        Re: I wonder whether this has anything to do ...

        If only there were some way to make the judge honestly represent his reasons and not give utter bollocks in his summary? I've read a lot of these that can't pass my 8 year old's BS test.

        1. katrinab Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: I wonder whether this has anything to do ...

          Last time, it was "I'm very sorry, we won't do it again, please give us a second chance". That worked, and there is no suggestion that the fact that the Chief Magistrate's husband is a shareholder in Über had anything to do with it.

          This time, the judgement was given by the Deputy Chief Magistrate, presumably due to the potential conflict of interest revealed after the previous hearing. It was "I'm very sorry, we won't do it again, please give us a third chance". How many chances do they get?

    2. macjules Silver badge

      Re: I wonder whether this has anything to do ...

      "Despite [Uber's] historical failings, I find them, now, to be a fit and proper person to hold a London PHV (private hire vehicle) operator's licence."

      “Please disregard the new Mercedes Benz E class in my front driveway.”

  5. JDPower Bronze badge

    "Updated on 29 September"?! Finally Reg have mastered time travel.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Time travel will one day be invented. Why do you think all the Inns were booked up when Jesus was born?

      1. Commswonk Silver badge

        Why do you think all the Inns were booked up when Jesus was born?

        Probably 'cos it was Christmas and people had travelled for fun - filled family gatherings, or perhaps to avoid fun - filled family gatherings...

        Obvious really.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          You do know there is an obvious flaw in your logic. Israel at that time was mainly a Hebrew country so not many Christians.

          1. DS999

            Saturnalia, then? It was run by Romans at the time, after all. Of course the flaw in this argument is that Jesus was born nowhere near December 25th...

          2. Commswonk Silver badge

            You do know there is an obvious flaw in your logic. Israel at that time was mainly a Hebrew country so not many Christians.

            Er... no. The flaw exists in your not realising I was being vaguely humerous. My comment was meant to be a logical absurdity.

            1. MrBanana Silver badge

              I hear ya

              As soon as I saw your post without an "obvious joke" icon I thought... here we go!

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              As was mine. It is a logical absurdity to talk about Christians before Jesus was even born. I too was being vaguely humorous. It appears points have been missed.

          3. katrinab Silver badge
            Boffin

            There is another flaw in your logic. Christianity hadn't been invented at that point.

            However, Christmas is a re-branding of the Pagan mid-winter festival, and that did exist at the time.

            The Catholic Church, and to a lesser extent, other Christian denominations, draw more of their customs and practices from Roman Pagan religion than from Judaism, though obviously the Old Testament comes from Judaism.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Yes you are correct but that still doesn't explain why all the inns were booked up. There is no mention of any other special events happening at that time so the only logical answer is time travellers. I'm guessing the three kings also didn't get rooms as they arrived late and being of substantial standing and wealth (gold, frankincense and myrrh) one can only conclude the time travellers also brought goods of great value to secure the rooms.

              1. MrBanana Silver badge

                "There is no mention of any other special events happening at that time"

                Except for the census Quirinius, governor of Syria, ordered that caused everyone to return to their ancestral towns.

                1. Tomato Krill

                  Please, everyone!

                  I can’t even see which are the whooshes any more :-/

                2. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Chris the bean counter

    Uber drivers earn below minimum wage

    They tend to have not established a long term credit record so have difficulty getting loans which means lease car companies stiff them.

    £250 a week to lease for a Prius.

    All gig services, initially above a certain turnover, should be able to prove that 80% of their workers earn over minimum wage (after costs), are insured and that the brand has legal responsibility for any issues. Otherwise the level of exploitation is terrible.

    Sick of hypocritical virtue signalling Londoners who are happy to use Uber "because they are cheap"...at least tip a fiver.

    And while I am on a rant how come motor cycle couriers who are busiest on wet dark nights and paid for speed are allowed to do their job on LPlates ? Insurers must be mad.

    1. logicalextreme Silver badge

      Re: Uber drivers earn below minimum wage

      I'm pretty sure the motorcyclist (or more likely scooterist) needs to have the appropriate insurance cover, which is probably commercial-level for deliveries. They almost certainly don't, and I don't know what the repercussions are for whom in the event of an accident, but I agree that a legal restriction would be prudent if there's evidence of a high accident rate amongst them — full clean license for x months or years, say. I'd expect the same on delivery drivers of larger vehicles, because newly-passed drivers aren't generally what you'd call good, though at least they've sat their theory.

      1. Insert sadsack pun here

        Re: Uber drivers earn below minimum wage

        Delivery riders pay about a grand a year for insurance - but most of them PAYG or combine it with their scooter rental. They, too, are getting smashed between the rock of Deliveroo/Just Eat and the hard place of scooter rental companies.

    2. katrinab Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Uber drivers earn below minimum wage

      That is the other legal case, judgement coming soon - https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/uksc-2019-0029.html

      It has gone against Über at every stage from Employment Tribunal to Court of Appeal. My guess is that it is very unlikely that the Supreme Court will disagree with all of them, but we will see.

      1. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge

        Re: Uber drivers earn below minimum wage

        Thanks for that link. I noticed that TFA used the phrase "43,000 drivers employed by Uber" which might be pre-empting the Supreme Court judgement you link to: The Appellants [Uber BV and others] argue that the Respondents were independent, third party contractors and not "workers"

        We'll see...

  7. matt38

    Why don't Black Cabs just embrace the technology? I'd much rather be picked up by a spacious Black Cab than a poxy Nissan ;-) They could probably put Uber out of business overnight if they wanted to

    1. logicalextreme Silver badge

      Arguments against black cabs: rattly, noisy, large enough to block road visibility for several other classes of road user.

      Anyway. Gett is linked to black cabs in several UK cities. Personally never used it because I had a good relationship with a local private hire firm, but I've heard good things from transport planners about its potential. Unfortunately Uber are uberiquitous enough to have dominated the market at this point, and outside London there don't tend to be black cabs everywhere you look — ranks tend to be clustered in the centre.

    2. Insert sadsack pun here

      Black cabs in London are mostly driven by owner operators. They didn't have billions of Saudi dollars to invest or manage online platforms or to suck up seemingly infinite losses until a greater fool is located. There are some platforms that work with black cabs now.

    3. Chris the bean counter

      Black cabs have a disadvantage that they were designed for hailing so are custom specified with low volume and little competition among manufacturers

      This makes them very expensive to buy and maintain and a generation behind in reliability, economy, pollution and ride quality.

      Even before uber they were struggling against mini cabs. (A luxury Merc is cheaper and easier to get financing on).

      Throw in that housing prices mean more have been driven to live further from town increasing costs of driving a low economy into town to start work.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They're a shower

    I refer you to this little gem:

    https://www.kentonline.co.uk/medway/news/500-uber-bill-has-ruined-my-christmas-218937/

    The original quote of "around £200.00" was outrageously high in the first place, even for the "proper" direct route straight down the A2, and she shouldn't have accepted it. Totally ridiculous sum. Price would be nowhere near that for a "normal" private hire vehicle. Probably around £70.00 - £80.00, I would guess, from experience. Wouldn't touch them with the proverbial barge-pole. Incidentally, they appear to be operating around the Medway towns under the pretext of their London licence, claiming that the area comes under "Greater London", which it certainly does NOT. I have seen a couple at a Maidstone hotel and I understand there has also been an appearance at Canterbury, neither locations (from MY memory) being anywhere near the London catchment area. Also, if they are what they claimed to be, i.e. just a provider of software to match drivers with "riders" and not a taxi company, why do they need a private hire operator's licence, anyway?

    1. Colin Bull 1

      Re: They're a shower

      For clarification -

      The Uber app is taking the booking, so Uber must have an operator's licence.

      The licence is registered where the company is based but generally can operate any where in the UK.

      There is an anomoly that if a driver works for two companies in separate authorities they must hold a PH licence for both authoriies regardless of where they live.

      So a company based in Birmingham can operate in Nottingham with a Birmingham Op licence and cannot be regulated by Nottingham authorities as long as bookings and admin are done in Birmingham. I think London is a separate issue entirely and is not in line with rest of UK.

      Would be far better to have central licensing and standard rules but not likely to happen.

  9. Winkypop Silver badge
    Coat

    All rise!

    Magistrate: Clerk of the court, call me an Uber please. I'm late for lunch at the club.

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