The world’s biggest player in taxi industry is facing a potential legal threat from the iconic black cabbies of UK’s capital.
On Christmas Eve, Uber, the £50b transportation network company, celebrated the achievement of one billion Uber trips only five and a half years after its foundation. Ironically, the historic ride took place in London, the same city where celebrations could cease for the Silicon Valley’s upstart.
Black cabbies vs Transport for London
Artemis Mercer, the wife of a London’s black cab driver, launched the “Action for Cabbies” campaign via crowdfunding.co.uk in order to raise £600k by the 14th of March 2016. The goal of the campaign is to seek a judicial review in the Transport for London (TfC) – the transportation authority of the city – and its decision to grant an operating license to Uber and Uber’s driver-partners in 2012.
After the road-blocking demonstrations of the last summer in the heart of the city, the crowdfunding attempt was interpreted as their ultimate action to force legal reevaluations and to protect the 25,000 drivers and families that are associated with the industry. According to Mercer, the historic black cab trade in London is in danger because of the unfair competitive practices that Uber promotes. She argues that Uber drivers provide the same taximeters as the black cabs, even though they are not subjected to the same standards.
At the same time, Mercer also supports that the TfC has failed to tackle numerous issues related to Uber drivers’ license, such as “the public safety due to insurance irregularities, the lack of rigorous background checks and the limited disabled access”.
Not an easy task
Legally speaking, the probability to win the court case is not in favor of the taxi drivers. Especially after the UK’s High Court decision to give justice to Uber on exactly the same charges pressed by the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association last October. Beyond that, it seems that the cab-hailing app has also earned the support of Londoners.
More specifically, they gathered more than 200,000 signatures to support Uber in the court and to warn the TfL that the proposals to tighten the private hire regulations will deprive their right to enjoy an affordable, convenient and punctual ride. Obviously, the costumer-friendly taxi app has been the worldwide game-changer in the transportation field and the legal framework in UK has given already the green light for this new epoch.
Last but not least, in case that this crowdfunding campaign will be crowned a success, it will be only the initial stage of a long process. Actually, it will cover only the application for the judicial review against the TfL’s decision. In the longer term, more funds have to be gathered to support the upcoming legal challenges of the case.
An alternative paradigm
Of course the reactions and the accusations against the following tactics by Uber is not a novelty anymore. In some occasions these reactions have turned even to violent practises, like in France or Mexico.
Nonetheless, in countries such as Germany, Uber struggled to expand its services in cities outside of Berlin and Munich. The main reason for that were the actions that have been made from the Taxi Deutschland, a taxi cooperative union. As a result, last November Uber announced that is pulling out its services in Hamburg, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf, and blamed the implemented domestic policies and regulations for this outcome.
With more than 7,000 drivers-partners in London in 2014, a number that almost tripled up in 2015, Uber has been the clearest threat for the black cab drivers of the city. The real question now is, if the united taxi associations of the capital will succeed to follow the example of their German colleagues.
Written by Aris Vourvoulias