Saturday, September 27, 2014
TfL to hold public consultation on mandatory acceptance of credit and debit cards by Taxi drivers...by Jim Thomas
Friday, September 26, 2014
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Courts in Berlin and Hamburg upheld bans on online transportation service Uber on Friday, saying the company did not comply with German laws on the carriage of passengers.
U.S. start-up Uber had appealed against the bans in Germany, the latest front in its global battle to win regulatory approval in the face of stiff opposition from taxi services under threat from Uber's business model.
Uber said it had not yet decided whether to appeal against Friday's rulings by administrative courts in Berlin and Hamburg, which said Uber's drivers lacked the commercial licenses to charge passengers for rides.
"Uber is reviewing the court documents in detail before commenting on today's decision but will continue to comply with German law," said a spokesman for Uber, which was recently valued at $18 billion.
He declined to say whether Uber would continue to operate services in the two cities pending any appeal.
Uber has been shadowed by skirmishes with taxi operators and local authorities in many cities where it operates, starting in its home base of San Francisco. It is active in 43 countries and has pulled out of only one city: Vancouver, Canada.
The Berlin and Hamburg rulings go against a previous reprieve given to Uber by a Frankfurt court, which ruled last week there were no grounds for a temporary injunction against its services.
The disparate decisions underline ambivalence in Germany about how to deal with challenges from U.S. technology firms ranging from Google to Amazon to Uber.
The German Economy Ministry said last week the country needed to make room for new, digital business models alongside existing businesses, and called for a hard look at laws governing transport and competition.
The Berlin court said on Friday there was no way of telling whether private drivers using the UberPop mobile phone app, which connects them to potential passengers, were fit to take on the special responsibility of carrying passengers.
It said the Uber Black service, which allows users to summon limousines using an app, did not meet the legal requirement for taxis to return to their service center and so fell between regulations for taxi and rental car services.
"The ban serves to protect the existence of taxi services, their ability to function, in which there is an important public interest," it said in a statement.
The Hamburg court rejected Uber's arguments that the ban violated Uber's professional freedom or European freedom to offer services.
Rumer Willis, the daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, had to be rushed to hospital on Monday morning (22.09.14) after the UberX car she was in crashed.
The 26-year-old actress (who is the daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore) was travelling in the UberX car when it crashed near her home in Hollywood early Monday morning.
She described the crash as ''terrible'', saying: ''I had the accident sitting in the back of an uber car. My back is really hurting. I went to my doctor and they looked at everything. They had to really check me out.''
The starlet also tweeted about the incident, writing: ''I was a huge fan of @uberx, but after getting in a car accident in the back of an uberx and still had to pay for the ride I am very disappointed.''
Rumer is reportedly in total shock of the situation and lack of sincerity shown by controversial firm, Uber.
Friday Morning, Euston Road
Uber Driver v Sat Nav.
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Nathaniel Rothschild, whose ancestor helped bankroll Britain’s war against Napoleonic France 200 years ago, is backing London cabbies in their battle against Uber Technologies Inc.
Rothschild and 39-year-old Argentine Gabriel Campos, former chief executive officer of online gaming site Pokerstars, plan to launch a taxi-sharing mobile-phone app in the next few weeks. Maaxi Ltd. aims to make traditional black cabs cheaper than public transport by grouping passengers with similar destinations, Campos said in a Sept. 23 phone interview.
Investors are pouring cash into apps that let customers order taxis and cars, or share rides using their smartphones. Uber, which is available in more than 150 cities in 45 countries, raised $1.2 billion in June, giving the San Francisco-based company a value of $17 billion. Ride-sharing app Lyft Inc. raised $250 million from investors including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. in April.
The investment by Rothschild, who joins Campos as the company’s major shareholder, comes after the financier took a sabbatical to finish a Masters degree at King’s College London.
Rothschild, 43, has used video and Twitter to market Maaxi as an alternative to car services such as Uber, which triggered protests by London cabbies who say the car-sharing service threatens jobs.
In a promotional video posted by Maaxi on YouTube last week, Rothschild checks his watch before taking a shared cab from Harrods department store to Westminster for a meeting with U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. “The Chancellor is expecting you,” says an unidentified driver in the clip.
Maaxi will need additional funds for expansion, said Campos. He declined to comment on the prospects of a share sale for Maaxi, which has been developing the app for almost two years.
While charges will depend on how many people share a cab, the size of London’s hackney carriages and their accessible seats makes them perfect for ride sharing, Campos said. About 1,000 drivers have been signed up in the past 10 days as the app moves toward its official start, he said.
“There’s no way that any company like this can thrive unless the constituents are very happy for the long run,” he said. “Maaxi allows people not to own a car and move door-to-door at any point at any time at a very affordable price because the capacity exists and the vehicles exist.”
Rothschild declined to be interviewed when contacted by e-mail.
The financier has been prolific on Twitter, posting updates on Maaxi and engaging with both skeptical and supportive black-cab drivers. Earlier this week, Rothschild posted photos from inside black cabs as he shared journeys with the first users in a trial run.
“Door-to-door shared rides are going to be like dining at the Ritz compared to TfL,” he posted on Sept. 20, referring to Transport for London which controls the city’s buses, metro and overland train network.
Maaxi drivers will be better compensated for ride sharing than rivals, said Campos, adding that further details would be announced at the app’s launch. Maaxi’s technology in terms of routing and ensuring efficient journey-matching is more advanced, according to Campos.
Uber added a service in August -- Uber Pool -- that lets people do the equivalent of carpooling, in a race to be the dominant car-hailing service.
Uber opened a new black cab service in June for customers using its app and described its 5 percent commission as the lowest in London. Campos declined to say how much commission Maaxi would make from bookings.
“We’ve already welcomed hundreds of cabbies to Uber, and signups are increasing rapidly by the day,” a spokesperson for Uber said in an e-mailed reply to questions. “Competition is a great thing for the consumer. Londoners are voting with their fingers by downloading apps like Uber.”
Uber has come under fire from traditional taxi drivers worldwide who say they are bound by rules that don’t apply to the smartphone-based system. Cabbies in London yesterday snarled traffic as they called for a rethink of the city’s policies on rickshaws, illegal minicabs, unlicensed operators and Uber’s car-sharing service.
In London, only licensed black cabs can pick up passengers on the street. Drivers of these hackney carriages typically take two to four years to learn 320 routes through the center of the city, plus 25,000 streets and landmarks in a bid to pass a test called the Knowledge.
Maaxi offers Rothschild the chance to make an investment with social dimension, said Campos.
“The opportunity was fantastic for him in terms of being able to do something that has real social impact, that makes transportation very affordable,” Campos said. “The social impact is the piece that moved Nat the most.”
Another complete waste of time.
Thousands of drivers answered the call, but unfortunately the organisers failed again to get the message out before and after the event.
Nothing learned from previous demos.
This morning, the drivers efforts are forgotten, it might just as well not happened.
Even Palestinians carrying black flags banned by the government were allowed to protest along Whitehall and yet, TfL put an army of compliance officers on the street, taking the numbers of drivers displaying stickers in their windows advertising the demo.The usual bullying and intimidation tactics we've seen on previous demos repeated and expanded.
Compliance doing spot checks on drivers nor working are unlawful. Marshals from organisers should have put a stop to this, or at least advised drivers of their rights not to comply, but didn't.
Afterwards the media were confused. The fact that there was no clear message left them free to use their imagination which they did to out detriment.
Even drivers who were interviewed by journalists from the worlds media were unsure why they were there giving a multitude of differing reasons which again led to confusion and the wrong messages getting out.
When will the LTDA realise that they can't do this alone, they just don't have the skill. After 45 years of inaction and collaboration they still can't put a simple demo with a clear agenda across.
We've had 3 demos on Whitehall in the last year which have proved to be 3 waisted opportunities.
The fact that the demo was again sited on Whithall gave TfL the opportunity to organise arrangements which took buses out of the traffic and minimised disruption. People who had paid once on the bus, were then asked to pay again to complete their journey on the tube. A win win situation for TfL.
The LTDA played into the hands of TFL by not uniting and utilising the whole trade to employing the best PR tactics.
Waste of time, lost message,
TfL 3 - Taxi trade 0
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Allowing London's trademark black cabs to use bus lanes while excluding other minicab companies does not constitute illegal state aid, an adviser to the highest European Union court found on Wednesday.
The opinion is the latest stage in a longstanding dispute between the British capital's transport authority and Eventech, which owns a minicab fleet used by the cab firm Addison Lee.
An advocate general, who advises the European court in Luxembourg, found that Transport for London's (TfL) policy of only allowing black cabs to use the city's bus lanes did not constitute an unlawful transfer of public resources -- essentially a subsidy -- to registered taxis.
"Where state authorities make a bus lane on a public road available to black cabs but not to PHVs (private hire vehicles) during the hours of operation of that bus lane, that does not involve a transfer of 'state resources', provided that all comparable undertakings are granted access on equal terms," Advocate General Nils Wahl said in his opinion.
Opinions from advocates general are respected by the court in a majority of cases.
The dispute comes at a time when alternative taxi providers, such as the car-sharing service Uber, have clashed with traditional cabs concerned about what they call unfair competition. The conflict has led to Europe-wide taxi strikes and temporary bans on Uber in Germany.
Eventech had argued that TfL's bus lane policy was an infringement of the freedom to provide services and also amounted to illegal state aid to the benefit of black cabs.
But Wahl rejected those claims, saying that under EU state aid rules it was not necessary for member states to demand payment for access to public infrastructure, such as bus lanes.
"If...state aid rules were interpreted as generally requiring member states to charge for access to public infrastructure or state-controlled resources, this might deter states from creating or opening up areas to which there has previously been no, or only limited access," Wahl said.
Eventech had also argued that exempting black cabs from paying fines for using the bus lanes amounted to an illegal transfer of public money to their benefit, a claim again rejected by Wahl.
The dispute began in 2010 when two of Addison Lee's drivers were fined for driving their cars along a bus lane in central London. Eventech challenged the fines but lost before the High Court, leading to its appeal to the EU's top court.