Uber Responds To Criticism Of London Operations

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Uber’s cash-free, mobile-centric business model and its decision to avoid traditional licensing in market after market has been met with resistance from taxi associations that want to protect what is often a highly regulated industry (such as last month’s ban in Brussels). Now that London’s iconic black cabs are planning to protest Uber by creating severe congestion sometime in early June, the company has shot back with criticism of its own.

Taxi industry ‘hasn’t evolved in years’: Uber

“We are bringing competition to an industry that hasn’t evolved in years,” Jo Bertram wrote on the Uber blog (h/t Chloe Albanesius at PC Mag).

Uber drivers use a smartphone app that calculates fares using time and distance, just like a taximeter would, except that it doesn’t connect to the car to do so. Since regulations prevent cars from being fitted with taximeters, and cars used by Uber drivers aren’t fitted with anything, the app has been ruled to not cross that line. The fact that it plays precisely the same role in the transaction apparently doesn’t matter.

TFL says Uber app isn’t a taximeter

“Uber has been fully licensed as a Private Hire Operator since our launch in London nearly two years ago, and we meet all the required private hire regulations,” writes Bertram. “TFL have confirmed that smart phones used by private hire drivers do not constitute the equipping of a vehicle with a taximeter.”

The distinction between a taximeter and the Uber app feels like the result of an outdated law whose assumptions no longer hold, and local taxi associations are expected to push for a review of the TFL decision. If they lose a second time, political pressure to update the law so that it bars Uber from operating without a taxi license is probably the next step, and a few days of extreme congestion will certainly get people’s attention.

Uber improves the taxicab experience in a number of ways: seeing the person who’s going to pick you up ahead of time improves security, seeing the route taken and an explanation of the cost after the ride assures customers they aren’t getting ripped off even if they’re from out of town or have had a few. Google Maps will even tell you how long you can expect to wait for an Uber cab to pick you up at your current location. But no matter how good the service is, Uber can’t expect to avoid regulations forever.

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