Sunday, April 22, 2018

Tilehurst Private Hire Company Fined For Operating In Reading Using Vito With Expired Transport For London Roundels

A Tilehurst Privat Hire company has been heavily fined for breaking the rules.

In a routine inspection, licensing officers spotted a silver Mercedes Vito operating as a school transport vehicle outside The Holy Brook School in Ashampstead Road, Southcote.

On closer inspection, the officers realised the car was displaying an expired Transport for London private hire vehicle licence roundel.

The operation, carried out by Reading Borough Council's licensing officers and legal team, then managed to track down the offenders.

The men responsible have both been slapped with fines for breaking the rules at separate hearings in Reading Magistrates Court.

Anthony Roe, 51, of Lower Armour Road, Tilehurst, the operator of 1st Class Cars, was found guilty in his absence of operating a private hire vehicle without a current licence, during a hearing on Monday, April 9.

He was fined £800 and ordered to pay legal costs of £1,500 and an £80 victim surcharge.

Clarence Harry, 63, of Halls Road, Tilehurst, Berkshire, the driver of the Mercedes Vito, appeared before magistrates on Thursday, April 12, and was found guilty of driving/plying for hire without a licence.

He was fined £120 and ordered to pay legal costs of £120 and a £30 victim surcharge.

The council's licensing officers are regularly out and about in the borough carrying out checks on private hire vehicles, their drivers for the safety of all their customers.

Sunday Special Report: We've All Heard Of Uber's GreyBall Program, But What Actually Is It


Greyball is a software tool used by the ride-hailing service Uber to identify and deny service to certain riders, including riders who Uber suspects of violating its terms of service. 

Uber's use of Greyball was made public in a March 3, 2017, investigative report by The New York Times, which described how, as early as 2014, Uber had used Greyball to evade local government authorities in the United States, Australia, South Korea, and China. In the days following the publication of the New York Times story, Uber admitted that it had used Greyball to thwart government regulators and it promised to stop using the tool for that purpose.

Uber reportedly developed Greyball to identify individuals who Uber suspected of using its service improperly, and it began using the tool as early as 2014. According to Uber, Greyball can "hide the standard city app view for individual riders, enabling Uber to show that same rider a different version." Uber claimed that it used Greyball to deny service to individuals suspected of violating the company's terms of services, such as people seeking to harm Uber drivers, disrupt Uber operations, or carry out law enforcement actions against Uber drivers. However, after The New York Times revealed Greyball's existence in March 2017, Uber said it would stop using it to evade local government regulators.

According to the New York Times report, which was based on interviews of four current and former Uber employees and a review of internal Uber documents, Greyball used several methods to identify and deny service to government officials who were investigating Uber for violations of local laws. Those methods included:
* Geofencing. Uber would create a digital map that identified the locations of city government offices. If a potential rider attempted to hail a ride from the area around a government building, Greyball would flag the individual as a possible law enforcement agent.
* Mining credit card databases. If Uber identified a credit card as being associated with a government agency or police union, it would flag that individual in Greyball. 
* Identifying devices. Since government agencies would often buy cheap cellphones for use in sting operations, Uber employees would visit electronics stores to obtain model numbers for inexpensive phones and input those model numbers into Greyball. 
* Searches of social media. Uber employees searched social media profiles to identify possible law enforcement agents. Uber then flagged those individuals in Greyball. 
* Eyeballing. Greyball would determine if a potential rider had been opening and closing the Uber app numerous times without calling for a ride.

In May 2017, several news organizations reported that the United States Department of Justice had opened a criminal investigation into Uber's use of Greyball to avoid local law enforcement operations.

Transport for London (TfL) cited use of Greyball in London as one of the reasons for its decision not to renew Uber's private hire operator licence. The decision states that the way in which Uber uses Greyball contributes to it failing to meet the standards of a "fit and proper" private hire operator. 

Consequently, Uber would not be able to operate legally in London after its licence expired on 30 September 2017 unless they entered an appeal within 21 days. Uber challenged the ban in court and are currently still working even though they've been cited as not fit and proper by the licensing authority. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Uber CEO Had Secret Meeting With Mike Brown In January According to FOI Request

LONDON (Reuters) - London’s Transport Commissioner Mike Brown met Uber [UBER.UL]boss Dara Khosrowshahi in January, a freedom of information request revealed, as the Silicon Valley app fights to keep its cars on the streets of its most important European market.

Uber is battling a decision by the city’s transport regulator last September to strip it of its licence after it was deemed unfit to run a taxi service, a ruling Uber is appealing.

Since then Uber has made a series of changes to its business model, responding to requests from regulators, including the introduction of 24/7 telephone support and the proactive reporting of serious incidents to London’s police.

Khosrowshahi flew to London in October for discussions with Brown after which Uber promised to make things right in the British capital city.

The pair had a second meeting in London in January, according to a response to a freedom of information request from Reuters.

“The Commissioner met with Dara Khosrowshahi on 3 October 2017 and 15 January 2018, both meetings took place in London,” Transport for London (TfL) said.

A TfL spokesman declined to provide an immediate comment on what was discussed at the meeting. Uber declined to comment.

Reuters had asked for a list of every meeting which had taken place between Uber and TfL’s private hire team and/or Brown since Sept. 22 but TfL declined to release such details.

“We are not obliged to supply the remainder of the information requested in relation to meetings as it ... relates to information where disclosure would be likely to prejudice the exercise by any public authority of its functions ..,” it said.

A court hearing over Uber’s appeal is due this month before the substance of the appeal is heard in June.


TAXI LEAKS EXTRA BIT :

So we have the commissioner of TfL refusing to meet with representatives from the licensed Taxi Trade for 8 months. When he finally did, he said they couldn't discuss Uber as they are appealing TFL's licensing decision, and it would be sub judice. 

But apparently it's OK for this commissioner to have two secret sessions with Uber's CEO...and that not sub judice?

We keep being told that Mike Brown is on side.....but the burning question has to be.....who's side???


After this latest outrage, shouldn't our trade leaders be kicking down Mike Brown's door on Monday morning ??? 

Uber To Hand Over London Customer Data To TfL In Peace Offering


Nobody likes to think their data is being harvested by a third party company, but now in the wake of Cambridge Analytica's expose with Facebook, we find that Uber have been collating data from its users for many years. 

In a bid to curry favour with the licensing authority after the rejection of their licence application to continue in London....Uber are offering to grant TfL access to the wealth of data it holds on the capital’s transport networks.

This is the latest conciliatory step the $80bn (£57bn) app has taken since it was stripped of its London licence six months ago following a string of alleged illegal activities and safety failings, including failing to report drivers to police after complaints of rape and sexual assault, allowing the predator drivers to strike again and again.

Uber said the data, which covers 50,000 drivers in the capital, could be used to help urban planning as London groans under the weight of the growing congestion blamed on internet shopping delivery vans, ride share apps and segregated bicycle lanes.

Since being stripped of its licence back in September last year and ousting its founder Travis Kalanick in the summer, Uber purports to have launched a series of bids to clean up its act, including capping drivers’ working hours and cracking down on drivers using the app in cities where they are not licensed.

Unfortunately the geofencing they say they've imposed, isn't strictly based on the boundaries of the Greater Metropolitan area of their licence. Corridors have been added which extend to places such as Gatwick, Luton, Stanstread and Southend Airports.

Uber Britannia Limited's app tracks millions of journeys via smartphone GPS sensors, which the company says gives it a unique perspective on driving patterns in cities. It's also been alleged that Uber have carried on tracking celebrity customers after the journey's completion. 

Uber's peace offering say's their data will show regulators how journey times change at different times and days, as well as seeing how one-off events such as bridge closures have affected travel times.

The company's replacement for Jo Bertram, Fred Jones said: “Under Uber’s new leadership we want to be a better partner to city planners and regulators.” Well they would say that, they want their licence renewed. Uber have always had the policy, 'it's easier to seek forgiveness than permission'.
A TfL spokesman said: “We welcome any move that has the potential to provide a greater insight into how people move around London.”

Uber will continue to operate in the capital while it challenges the ban. The appeal is due to be heard in June and may be dragged out for years if the company continues to fight through the courts. 

Even though TfL are in possession of evidence that would see Uber closed down completely, their legal team don't appear to have the appetite to take on the £57bn company, with latest discretions swept under the carpet and kept out of the media.

Uber have said they would prefer to reach an agreement with Tfl instead of fighting through the courts, and last year they flew their new chief executive (Dara Khosrowshahi) to London for cosy talks with TfL commissioner Mike Brown.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

News From Unite Union Cab Section... Uber Illegally Granted A Booking Office Licence In Glasgow.


Yesterday at the Burgh Court, Uber Scot Ltd was illegally granted a Booking Office Licence, in breach of the The Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 (Licensing of Booking Offices) Order 2009. 

In an assault on the democratic process, the Licensing and Regulatory Committee, advised by Licensing Solicitor, Mairi Millar, refused to hear three objections from Unite the Union Cab Section, Glasgow Taxis Ltd, and Greater Glasgow Private Hire Association. Objections were late as the statutory notice was only viewable on the door of 69 Buchanan St for 21 days. The notice was not in the print media, not on the GCC website, in fact it had no online presence anywhere. It was preposterous to expect anyone to notice an A4 sheet on the door of an inconspicuous office building on a pedestrianised shopping thoroughfare.

Despite objections being late, Glasgow City Council Licensing & Regulatory Committee has at its discretion the power to hear late submissions. All three objectors were only allowed to give the reasons why the objections were late, but forbidden from mentioning reasons for objecting. Glasgow Taxis Ltd Solicitor, Tom McIntaggart, put up an extremely convincing argument for hearing the objections, citing examples where GCC Licensing had accepted late objections in the past. 

Councillors who voted against hearing our objections and denied us the right to be heard were as follows:

Baillie John Kane, Scottish Labour Party, Govan (5)

Baillie Hanif Raja, Scottish Labour Party, Pollokshields (6)

Cllr Aileen McKenzie, Scottish Labour Party, Springburn/Robroyston (17)

Cllr Robert Connelly, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Calton.

Those councillors that believed in the democratic process and wanted to hear our objections were as follows:

Cllr Rhiannon Spear, Scottish National Party, Greater Pollok (3).

Cllr Graham Campbell, Scottish National Party, Springburn/Robroyston (17).

Gary Gray, Scottish Labour Party, Canal (16).

Special mention to Cllr Rhiannon Spear who made clear her concerns over aspects of Uber’s operation and was clearly unhappy with what transpired.

Just to recap, all traditional taxi and private hire companies in Glasgow are registered at their respective licensed premises in Glasgow for the booking, dispatch and payment of fares. This means that they are within the jurisdiction of Scottish law enforcement and the Scottish legal system. It also means that they are subject to UK tax and VAT.

Uber is the exception. Glasgow work is dispatched from Uber BV in the Netherlands, trip data is recorded by Uber BV in the Netherlands, payment is taken by Uber BV in the Netherlands, and a receipt is issued by Uber BV in the Netherlands. Glasgow City Council yesterday licensed a sham booking office that attempts to legitimise dispatch of work from an unlicensed foreign company, Uber BV. 

Yesterday Uber’s Solicitor pointed to 4 million trips taken in Glasgow since it started. Some crude arithmetic based on an average of £5 per trip:

4M x £5 = £20M
Uber’s cut (25%) after drs are paid =£5M

UK Corporation tax @21% on £5M ~£1M+

UK VAT @20% on £20M = £4M

So, with what we admit are very crude workings, Uber has avoided UK tax and VAT in the region of £5M in Glasgow alone, in the 30 months it has been operating. That is starving the public purse of much needed revenue for schools, hospitals, housing etc. Glasgow City Council Licensing not only had solid legal grounds to reject Uber’s application, it also had a strong moral case to reject it. 

Don’t take our word for Uber’s illegal operation in Glasgow. At the November, 2017, Joint Taxi and Private Hire Trade Meeting, GCC Licensing Solicitor, Mairi Millar, stated that Uber Britannia Ltd did not satisfy the criteria to hold a Booking Office licence. Well the Licensing Solicitor can now make that two illegal booking offices ‘operational’ in Glasgow now.

TAXI LEAKS EXTRA BIT :
To be honest, this hasn't come as a huge surprise, but what we actually find surprising, is the fact that our Unions, Taxi associations and representative groups seem to sit back and just accept these illegal Uber licenses !!!

MEANWHILE HERE IN LONDON :


Wonder if the City of London or TfL would care to comment on this 
😂😂😂😂😂


ComfortDelGro acquires London taxi circuit operator Dial-a-Cab for £1.2 million


Com Cab owners ComfortDelGro, have acquired London taxi circuit operator Dial-a-Cab's business and assets for £1.2 million, the company announced on Thursday (Apr 19). 

The deal was undertaken by ComfortDelGro's wholly owned subsidiary in the UK CityFleet Networks. 

ComfortDelGro's managing director and group CEO Yang Ban Seng said the acquisition will "enable the Group to grow and strengthen its position as the leading taxi circuit operator in London through an expansion of the customer and driver base".

Radio taxi circuits are operators of a door-to-door transportation service that uses London's black cabs.

Currently, ComfortDelGro is the largest taxi circuit operator in London with around 1,900 London taxis. The acquisition will add about 1,100 black cabs to bring the total fleet to 3,000.

Mr Yang also added that London Councils and Transport for London recently awarded CityFleet the Taxicard and Dial-A-Ride contract for another three years, with an option for a fourth. 

Taxicard is the largest public sector day-to-day transport service in London for passengers with serious mobility impairments or who are severely sight impaired. 

CityFleet has held this contract over several decades through its taxi subsidiary Computer Cab. 


DELETE UBER 

In Singapore, Taxi giant ComfortDelGro told its cabbies to delete the Uber app on their phones, following the American ride-hailing firm's sale of its South-east Asian business to rival Grab on March 26.

Publicly listed ComfortDelGro, in a text message to its estimated 23,000 hirer-drivers, said: "Dear cabbies, UberFlash will cease on April 8 2018. You may delete the Uber driver app any time now since it will no longer be in use. ComfortDelGro will continue to provide you jobs... We thank you for your continued support.

TAXI LEAKS EXTRA BIT : 

So, ComCab will be adding another 1,100 vehicles to their fleet. Dial a Cab have ceased trading as their work has allegedly dried up. 

I wonder how ComCab drivers feel about having their existing work spread over a 30% expansion of its work force.