The long running and often acrimonious battle between the black cab trade and the private hire app operator Uber may finally be settled.
The LTDA (London Taxi Drivers Association) and other cab driver groups protested to regulators Transport for London that the app contravenes several existing laws. It was thought their strongest legal case against the app was on the grounds that it provided a metered fare as opposed to a flat fee quoted upfront.
The use of a meter along with entering bus lanes and being hailed on the street have long been the sole preserve of London's black cab trade.
TfL deemed the legal status of Uber's app dubious enough to refer the matter to the high court. In a decision that may surprise many industry insiders, today's high court ruling has found in favour of the American company. The court's ruling stated,
The question for decision in the light of those agreed facts is whether the Uber PHVs (Private Hire Vehicles) are equiiped with a taximeter, that is, a device for calculating fares.
In my judgement, these PHVs are not equipped with a taximeter as defined by section 11(3). The driver's Smartphone with the Driver's App is not a device for calculating fares by itself or in conjunction with Server 2, and even if it were, the vehicle is not equipped with it.
I reach that conclusion as a matter of the ordinary meaning of the words as applied to the agreed facts.
So Uber appears free to continue their rapid growth in London and their Global expansion plans continued at pace today with the launch of a courier delivery service in New York.
Presumably TfL's intention when referring the case to the Hgh Court was to produce a binding decision. However it is unlikely that the black cab trade will take the decision lying down.
Within an hour of the ruling the LTDA tweeted that they had lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court.
Uber greeted the High Court announcement with glee. Stating that its a victory for common sense and,
Great news for Londoners!
Many of those Londoners will have hoped that go slow demonstrations by cabbies would be over but no doubt further protests and resulting delays to travellers in the Capital can be expected.
Black Cab driver of 30 years Tommy Crudgington and member of the United Cabbies Group remained upbeat in the aftermath of the decision,
I always thought it was a fore gone conclusion. The powers that be were never on the side of the cabbies. But I'm all up for competition. People are waking up to the fact that these apps aren't as good as they're supposed to be.
Around town I know my way around like the back of my hand. On the short fares that I mostly get, if a passenger needs to get from A to B asap their drivers can't match up when using a sat nav.
At Plan we are impartial but informed observers, as we offer both private hire and black cab insurance. We hope Tommy's positivity is shared by many more cab drivers.
Numbers have already fallen 3,000 to 22,000 in recent times and a concerted effort will be needed to ensure the iconic black cab remains a familiar sight on London's roads.