UK court to rule on whether Uber breaches rules on taximeters

Out-Law News | 07 Oct 2015 | 5:12 pm | 2 min. read

A UK court is to rule on whether Uber's mobile app breaches taxi regulations.

The High Court in London heard arguments in the case on Monday and is set to rule on the matter at a later date. The Transport for London (TfL), Uber, the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association and Licensed Private Hire Car Association are all parties involved in the legal proceedings.

The TfL said the High Court has been asked to "make a declaration on whether smartphones, used by some private hire drivers, are taximeters".

It said: "The case … sees the High Court asked to make a declaration on whether smartphones, which use GPS technology and connect to external servers for the calculation of fares, comply with the law on taximeters, which are prohibited in private hire vehicles in London."

TfL said it does not think that smartphones do constitute taximeters. However, it acknowledged there are "clearly arguments to the contrary and there is a significant public interest in resolving the matter definitively". It said it will "apply the law as declared by the High Court" when a judgment on the matter is issued.

Uber allows people to book and pay for a ride-share, taxi or private driver through a mobile app. The company has established itself in many major cities around the world as a rival to traditional taxi companies. Uber works with "driver partners" who have control over how often they pick up and drop off Uber users. The company follows a 'surge pricing' model which adjusts the fare passengers are presented with depending on the demand for services and supply of cars available to meet that demand.

However, some taxi companies have complained that Uber has been operating in breach of regulations that they are bound by. France banned the budget 'UberPop' app under regulations applicable to chauffeur services.

TfL recently proposed changes to the regulation of private hire services in London. Its plans are open to consultation until 23 December this year.

In an article for the Telegraph, London mayor Boris Johnson said: "The reason TfL is consulting on new regulations for minicabs is very simple: we need to uphold the law. At present that law is being systematically broken – or at least circumvented – by the use of the Uber app."

"The app is allowing private hire vehicles to behave like black taxis: to be hailed, to ply for hire in the streets, to do exactly what the law says they are not supposed to do. You have the instant (or virtually instant) accessibility of the black cab, with none of the extra costs entailed by the vehicle regulations or the Knowledge, and the growth of the business is huge," he said.

Johnson said he thinks black cabs and private hire services can operate alongside one another but that until the law is updated "we must uphold the existing and long-standing legal distinctions between black cabs and minicabs".