There’s a certain irony when black cab drivers in London are inadvertently empathising with the French. The BBC is reporting that drivers of the UK capital city’s fully licensed “meter”-equipped taxis are planning a protest against U.S.-headquartered Uber’s expansion to London.
Their dispute appears to be somewhat of a technical one — the very definition of a “black cab” — with the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association complaining to regulator Transport for London (TfL) that Uber’s drivers are “using a smartphone app to calculate fares despite it being illegal for private vehicles to be fitted with taximeters.”
TfL disagrees and, with Uber’s business model (and others like it) still in the early stages, is refusing to intervene. Strictly speaking Uber cars are not fitted with meters but use an app and data to calculate fares, estimated in advance at the time of booking, give or take a bit of surge pricing, which Uber argue isn’t really any different to traditional licensed private hire cars i.e. “mini cabs”.
But new technology and Uber’s aggressive tactics means the company is doing it too well for the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association’s liking.
(Update: the technicality in dispute here is the “meter”, in this case a smartphone app, isn’t attached to the car in Uber’s case, so doesn’t necessarily constitute a meter in the legal sense in the UK.)
Cue stereotypically right-wing London black cab drivers going all socialist on our British asses.
“Transport for London not enforcing the Private Hire Vehicles Act is dangerous for Londoners,” Steve McNamara, LTDA’s general secretary, told the BBC. “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.”
Chaos, congestion and confusion — let’s just hope it doesn’t coincide with a tube strike.
However, whether or not Uber does breach any UK regulation, the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association’s grievances with the U.S. company appear to go a lot deeper.
“Uber, funded by Google, Goldman Sachs and others, has a stated aim of challenging legislation that is not compatible with its business model,” McNamara is quoted by the BBC.
“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.”
I’m starting to like this McNamara chap.