London wants Uber drivers to prove they can speak English

Black cabs have been a staple of London’s transportation system for decades. That said, the city’s regulators aren’t the biggest fan of Uber, which often offers lower prices and added convenience.

London’s transportation regulation agency (the TfL, Transportation for London) is imposing new rules that would require all private hire drivers to take an English proficiency exam.

This isn’t the first time that London has made moves to add regulations. The city originally tried to enact similar rules earlier this year that would only apply to drivers from non-English speaking countries, and would require both written and verbal proficiency. Uber successfully sued the city, calling the written portion overly burdensome, and the idea was ultimately seen as discriminatory.

So the TfL has decided to include everybody.

The new rules require that all private hire drivers (which includes UberX) prove their ability to speak English by March 31, 2017, either through a (mostly) verbal language exam or through other documentation that proves their English speaking skills. Plus, the test itself would cost £200.

Here’s what the TfL had to say about the new rules:

It is essential for public safety that all licensed drivers can communicate in English at an appropriate level. Communicating with passengers to discuss a route, or fare, as well as reading, understanding and being able to respond to important regulatory, safety and travel information sent by TfL is crucial to a driver’s role in transporting the public.

Uber responded with a statement given to Bloomberg:

We’ve always supported spoken English skills, but passing a written English exam has nothing to do with communicating with passengers or getting them safely from A to B,” Uber said in a statement. “Thousands of drivers who’ve spent years providing a great service to Londoners will now have to fork out 200 pounds and pass a writing exam, try to find an old GCSE certificate or lose their licence and their livelihood.

The test would apply to both new licenses and renewals, meaning that all private hire drivers in London will be forced to pass the exam by March 31, 2017.

London is but one city on a long list of markets that have fought to either uphold or add regulations to the private hire industry upon Uber’s arrival. And while the extra steps likely aren’t a welcome obstacle for Uber, the company is no stranger to fighting regulatory battles to continue expansion of the business.