Following the large demonstration against Uber and other apps in the centre of London on June 11, announced by the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA), cities like Paris and Berlin will follow the London-lead and also protest on that day.
Spanish and Italian taxi associations have also called up their members to demonstrate in Madrid, Barcelona, Milan and Rome. The London protest is likely to centre on Parliament Square, Trafalgar Square and along Whitehall.
London’s taxi drivers say Uber’s use of minicabs together with the app, effectively working as a taximeter, measuring time and distance, makes the service illegal. Normally minicabs are pre-booked via their office and a price for the trip is agreed. In effect, the booking software lets the minicabs ply for hire, something only taxis are allowed to do in the British capital. LTDA had initially announced a judicial review.
In its response the London regulator, Transport for London (TfL), which regulates London’s taxis and private-hire vehicles, finds the law ‘unclear’. Following the LTDA’s action TfL is now seeking a binding decision from the High Court. This is not likely to be given before the end of the year.
In The Guardian newspaper, LTDA’s general secretary Steve McNamara described this approach as “a stalling tactic preventing the union from calling a judicial review”: “It is crystal clear Uber are breaching the Private Hire Act,” he said. Part of the London protest undoubtedly has to do with the move by the previously ‘cab-friendly’ app Hailo to extend its service –previoulsy limited to black cabs, making it very popular with London cabbies- to private hire.
In the same newspaper, Uber’s UK-manager Jo Bertram commented “it was only increasing the size of the market” and “it’s opening up private hire to people who wouldn’t use it before.” She also said existing regulations did not reflect the change in technology and added that Uber would welcome the High Court’s scrutiny. Where and how Uber exactly pays taxes on its trips, is a closely-guarded question. Passengers are charged through a third-party payment system in The Netherlands.
• London’s protest has hit a nerve in other European capitals: anti-Americanism is not usually far away.