London’s taxi drivers are famously required to spend many days learning all about the city’s complicated street pattern. As a result of this intensive study period, they are widely acknowledged to be some of the best taxi drivers in the entire world. Travellers and locals alike depend on them for short trips around the city and longer rides to places like Heathrow airport. Earning a license to become a taxi driver indicates that the driver has been officially recognised by the state as a competent driver capable of getting the passenger to their correct destination as quickly as possible.
The Rise of Uber
While taxi driving has long been an honourable and respected profession in London, a new company threatens to upset this natural order of things. Uber is an app. The app lets people find drivers in their immediate area who can pick them up immediately. Uber has been widely used in many parts of the world. It lets the company’s drivers pick up some spare cash in their free time. Some people even sign up and agree to work for Uber on a full time basis. In doing so, they have been understandably fought by those who have been licensed by places like London to drive a taxi for a living. Many London black cab drivers are considering suing the company for lost wages.
The History of Uber in London
In the past decade, Uber officials sought to expand their business into London. In order to legally operate in the city, officials at the company had to apply for an official license for their drivers from transport for London officials. At first they were given the right to take on passengers and license all those who applied to drive with them. With millions of people using the app and many drivers to pick from, the company saw quick initial success even in the competitive London market. However, Transport for London later turned the company’s licensing request down, citing irregularities and failure to obey required regulations. Staffers at the company decided to appeal the ruling. An appeals judge agreed with the first ruling that Uber was not fit to hold a taxi license in the city. Licensing officials stated the Uber drivers and the company were not adhering to all necessary business practices. Company officials were accused of what was perceived as a lack of corporate responsibility. They argued that officials broke many rules deliberately and others with simple lack of record keeping. In their opinion, the company failed to conduct required background checks, did not keep transparent records and did not do enough to make sure passengers were safe and that drivers took on all requests and did not discriminate against potential passengers.
After the ruling, officials at Uber appealed. The company was denied a standard five year license by the regional administration. However, they were granted a new probationary license that is good for thirteen months. During this period, company officials and drivers can expect close scrutiny in order to see that all required local driving regulations are being followed. The ruling in this matter also came with certain caveats that are being carefully monitored by national officials. Under these new terms, company officials must agree to report any crimes immediately. They also must be make sure that drivers working for Uber only operate in specific areas where they hold a license and do not venture past these locations. These new terms are part of an overall shakeup at the company that includes a new new chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi as well as numerous changes in practice. Uber drivers in the United Kingdom are being offered limited insurance, limits on the number of hours they can work and access to a driver support hotline that is manned twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
A Lawsuit From London Taxis
The Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, an organisation that represents the interests of the city’s taxi drivers, is considering a lawsuit against Uber. According to published reports, the association is thinking about a lawsuit that would focus on several area of Uber practice during the company’s first five years in London. London has about twenty-five thousand licensed cab drivers. The association is expected to point out that all drivers in the city suffered from a loss of income as a result of the decision to let Uber operate in the United Kingdom capital. These lost earnings come to ten thousand pounds per driver per year. Lawyers for the organisation believe that there are legal grounds for a class action suit against the company. The organisation has been in direct consultation with respected law firm Mishcon de Reya over this matter in recent weeks. They believe that this new lawsuit is the best way to represent the interest of their members and insure they are treated fairly under United Kingdom laws.
If drivers decide to proceed with this case, it will probably be heard in the autumn at the earliest. Those funding the ligation expect it that court costs will be in the millions of pounds. At the same time, they believe this lawsuit is necessary in order to protect the interests of their members. Those funding the potential lawsuit believe that they have a great chance of success against the company in the court system. Many members have been understandably frustrated by the rise of the company as it has eaten into their income and made it hard for licensed drivers to earn a living. Steve McNamara, the organisation’s general secretary, believes this lawsuit will help protect the members of his organisation and will help insure they are ultimately treated fairly in the London taxi markets.
Despite some issues, Uber has proven highly popular with local residents and those travelling to London. Company officials state that more than three and a half million people use the service in London on a routine basis. There are approximately forty-five thousand drivers in the region. Many travellers appreciate the fact that the service is convenient and can be easily hailed with the use of existing technology. The Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association has previously taken the company to court in the past. They argued that drivers were running off a meter, despite the lack of a license to do so. While the previous lawsuit was not successful, officials are hopeful this one will be successful. They hope the suit will ultimately offer proper compensation to their members and make sure that the company is operating in accordance with all necessary regulations.
This week New York has decided to place a cap on the amount of Uber vehicles are allowed to operate in the city.
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