Having read the recent press statement, released after TfL met with the Taxi and private hire trade in regards to a certain smartphone app, I firmly believe it to be no more than a knee jerk reaction to appease the threat from the United Trade Group (UTG) made on social media, to take direct action against TfL for non enforcement of Taxi legislation.
The Taxi trades largest representative org, the one with over 9,000 members, said it was going to instruct it lawyers as they left Tuesday's meeting, after being informed that although TfL consider Uber to be acting illegally, they had no intention to take them on.
There is of course a very good reason for this!
You've only got to look at TfL's track record of taking on PH companies.
Uber has financial backing, which is larger than some countries gross domestic produce.
The thought of the LTDA taking anyone to court doesn't really fill me with confidence either, considering the last time they did this was against Rickshaw Bikes.
While I totally agree that action should be taken in response to the Rank at the Shard, non enforcement of Taxi ranks across London and Illegal plying for hire by minicab touts, I firmly believe that to take Uber to task over the definition of a Taxi meter, is similar to the "Light Brigade" charging down the wrong valley, after being given bad advice.
Uber offer a range of different pricing options, so if it was found that using a GPS smart phone was a form of Taxi meter, they would just switch to another option and carry on regardless.
In TfL's press release, Leon Daniels states categorically:
Private hire apps may either direct a potential passenger to a choice of licensed private hire operators or transmit the passenger's request directly to a licensed operator who will then accept and record the booking and allocate a driver.
From TfL's perspective, the essential aspect is that an app facilitates a customer to be put in direct contact with a licensed private hire operator.
Any app that puts a passenger in direct contact with a driver for the purpose of a private hire is illegal and TfL will take appropriate action against the person responsible for the app.
So there is the case:
Uber are putting passengers in direct contact with a driver for the purpose of private hire, which as TfL state....is illegal.
The way Uber operate, is possibly the biggest threat to the livelihood of Taxi drivers across many nations and to counter this threat in the most effective manner, we will need the help of our biggest unions, not just in the capital, but nationwide.
Soon Uber will be operating right across the country.
Are we going to to wait untill our drivers can't earn a living, before we take the lead from our French and Italian colleagues.
To counter this threat, the Taxi trade in London must put aside egos and personal empires and unite completely with no exemptions.
Nationally, it's the RMT, Unite and the GMB who have the resources and political clout needed to take this on.
Licensed By TfL.
John Mason confirmed Uber were licensed as a PH operator on the 30th May 2012 while he was director.
Considering the multinational outcry over Uber's modus operandi, why were they given an operators licence by TfL in the first place and who authorised their licensing?
TfL admitted (Tuesday's meeting with part of the Taxi trade) Uber operate illegally. So why haven't they revoked Uber's operators license?
Uber state, in their driver terms and conditions, they are NOT a transport provider.
If that's true, why then did they apply for and were granted a PH operators licence in 2012?
Mass demos and drive-ins are a great way of getting publicity for our cause, but if the UTG continue to exclude London's second biggest Taxi representative group(s), they are not going into battle with a complete arsenal, fully equipped to take on the enemy.
Remember, Uber are not invincible.
In the States today, it was not a good day for the unlicensed transportation company. Lawsuits and legal proceedings abounded. Here’s a quick snapshot of what’s happening:
1. Sacramento, CA
California Department of Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones issued a press release today announcing his recommendations for requiring transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft to provide commercial insurance in order to ensure protection for passengers, drivers and pedestrians. According to Jones, TNCs should bear the insurance burden when they encourage non-professional drivers to use their personal vehicles to transport passengers for profit.
2. Houston, TX
Taxicab and limousine companies in Houston have filed a civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) lawsuit against Uber and Lyft. This type of civil lawsuit refers to the ongoing and intentional criminal practices of a party. Houston taxicab and limousine companies say Uber and Lyft are operating as for-hire vehicles without proper licenses, fee payment or insurance, and are not meeting the obligations of for-hire vehicles in Houston. They are seeking an injunction to stop the companies from operation.
3. Columbus, OH
The City of Columbus filed a lawsuit that seeks to bar uberX from operation. The lawsuit states that the public is at risk because the city is both unable to verify drivers’ backgrounds and conduct vehicle inspections. Officials have said that charging for uberX rides is illegal because their drivers are acting as unlicensed vehicles for hire, which in Columbus is considered a misdemeanor. In the meantime, the Columbus attorney’s office is requesting a temporary restraining order that will prevent uberX from operating until a judge can decide whether to grant the permanent order.
Of course, the company is armed with war chests of hundreds of millions in venture capital funds--plenty to fund high-powered lawyers and lobbyists. They will undoubtedly fight these lawsuits tooth and nail.