Since its launch in the capital, Uber has divided opinion and led to numerous protests by traditional black cab drivers.
Black cab drivers are understandably concerned about their livelihood, claiming that the technology used by Uber constituted to a taximeter (which was outlawed for private vehicles).
For now though, Uber is winning the battle as the High Court found last week that Uber does not break the law as the phones use external servers and GPS to calculate the cost of a user’s journey.
The case was brought to court by the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), asking the judge to ban the use of Uber in the city by ruling it to be a meter.
Chairman of LTDA, Richard Massett stated:
“It’s a fact that the smartphone acts in exactly the same way as a taximeter. It calculates the fare by means of time taken and distance covered – and it’s doing exactly the same job.”
This case is likely to be the first of many, as the LTDA have already declared their intention to appeal. We expect other organisations in UK cities to follow suit and launch separate cases where possible within guidelines set out by law.
It’s not up for us to decide whether or not the Uber technology circumvents the law – clearly the legislation was put in place to ensure the public was not put at risk with unlicensed taxis.
What is clear though is that many of our laws were made pre-internet and before the word ‘app’ even existed. New apps and technology are disrupting ‘traditional’ business on a daily basis.
We can now hail a ride with Uber, book a place to stay at someone’s house with Air bnb (no doubt traditional B&B owners have concerns about this one) and get around mobile costs with apps such as WhatsApp.
The public benefit as a whole from this new technology, often saving money and getting much better prices. Whilst this is the case, we as the public will help to apply pressure to ensure historic laws are changed when change is needed.
Based on this latest ruling, Uber is set to continue in London and start its expansion across the rest of the UK. The argument for now though is all from over and we must all remember that technology can AND does have teething problems.
The fact that it is technology and not a traditional business means the industry is younger and is more prone to threats from elsewhere. Unfortunately there are horror stories as fraudsters work out how to scam the millions of users of major apps, so its vital you do actually read all those Ts & Cs carefully, as well as following the guidelines set out by the app.