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London officials declare cabbie-bothering Uber is legal – for now

TfL reckons app doesn't qualify as taximeter, but wants to get the High Court on the case

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Transport for London (TfL) has said that it doesn’t think that the app used by Uber drivers is in breach of the law by allowing them to use GPS and navigation to calculate charges, but it wants to refer the issue to the UK High Court.

The capital’s transport authority said it didn’t agree that smartphones used by private hire drivers could be classed as “taximeters”, which are illegal in private cars. However, it said that it would be asking the courts to get involved “given the level of concern among the trade” and the fact that the law was “unclear” on the issue.

As in other major cities, taxi companies and organisations in London are railing against apps like Uber and local firm Hailo, which formerly worked only with licensed black cabs, but has expanded to include private hire minicabs. Cabbies are so enraged by the move that one of Hailo's offices in the City was graffitied during a protest earlier this month.

The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) is planning a demonstration against Uber on 11 June, which it expects to cause severe congestion and traffic chaos in central London, general secretary Steve McNamara said earlier this month.

The association reckons that the smartphone app used by Uber drivers, which calculates the journey and the time taken from GPS data and then comes up with a fee, is basically the same thing as a taximeter. But TfL said that after its “largest ever compliance investigation”, it hadn’t found anything legally wrong with the service.

“TfL has found that Uber meets the current requirements on record keeping, including in relation to ensuring its drivers hold the relevant licenses and insurance. TfL remains concerned about certain technical aspects of Uber’s operating model and this is being addressing with the operator,” the authority said.

Leon Daniels, TfL’s managing director of surface transport, said that the ruling on the taximeter issue was a preliminary one.

“On the issue of taximeters, the law is unclear and we have taken a provisional view. We will be asking the High Court to provide a binding ruling. This is the sensible approach, and we hope that London's taxi drivers and private hire drivers and operators will work with us to bring clarity on this issue,” he said. ®

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