Saturday, July 15, 2017

Lee Ward (ALPHA Chairman) Explains Why/How Uber Is Operating Illegally Throughout The UK.

1. After many years involved in the Taxi and Private Hire industry, I was intrigued when Uber came to these shores, my intrigue was in regards to how they operated in its home country the USA and how its surge pricing worked.
2. I investigated Uber online and its operation in the USA and found that they use non licensed vehicles and drivers, which is allowed in some area’s due to their local legislation, and found that this suited the Uber model to great effect due to Uber requiring part time drivers and vehicles at peak times and not usually during the day when every-one was in their place of work.
3. Uber do not use non licensed vehicles in the UK, as rumours may lead people to believe, but they do however use vehicles and drivers licensed by local authorities who also work or represent a local company and switch over to Uber when it’s busy. This is something that Uber are happy for the drivers to do, and in fact have stated on a local radio station in Sheffield that they welcome this which then of course gives them the ‘part time’ drivers that they both desire at peak times and have used to great effect in the USA.
4. Unfortunately, this is also used when they say how many hours their average driver works on the Uber platform, which is somewhat a false truth because they know full well that the drivers move to the local company also during the week. Uber have been known to quote that drivers work as little as ten hours per week, which would be impossible for the driver to cover the fixed overheads of purchasing and maintaining a vehicle along with the insurance and fuel that comes with it.
5. This use of drivers from the pool of locally licensed, established companies will of course reduce the service levels to which that company can provide to its regular customers if and when its pool of drivers are lost to the Uber platform due to its surging prices when demand is higher than supply. In other words at peak times when more customers than drivers are available.
6. Surge pricing, this intrigued me greatly simply because the idea is actually rather good for this industry and I will explain why.
7. The biggest problem within the Private Hire industry is that the majority of people all move at the same time, be this to and from work during peak traffic, school runs or going to the local pub or restaurant which of course they then all require a vehicle to take them back home at the same time also.
8. A Private Hire company will take both advanced and Ad Hoc bookings from its customers, but this can and often does cause an issue with supply and demand. The result from this issue is that bookings will run late, it’s almost an industry fact and acceptance to a degree.
9. This issue in peak times leads to customers having to wait or phone back and ask where their vehicle is.
10. Ubers model removes this, simply by the following steps, if a vehicle is available, the customer gets a car whereas if no vehicles are available then the customers App informs them to try again later.
11. Surge pricing is an Uber algorithm that monitors this supply and demand and when demand is exceeding supply, the algorithm will put a surge factor onto the price of the job, giving the customer the option of accepting the surge and paying extra for the service or to simply wait until this surge has been removed to demand being less.
12. From my 22 years in the Private Hire industry and being involved in depth with various computer dispatch systems, the surge algorithm gave me plenty to consider and for the past five years I have looked on a daily basis for news articles, or interviews and such that would give me an insight into this simply because I could not see how this would work if Uber or any other company using this model, actually accepted the booking first. How could they, it is purely based on supply and demand and not demand and supply.
13. The issue now is that the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 clearly states at Section 56 (1)
For the purposes of this Part of this Act every contract for the hire of a private hire vehicle licensed under this Part of this Act shall be deemed to be made with the operator who accepted the booking for that vehicle whether or not he himself provided the vehicle.
14. So how did Uber work this model, well the only way I could see it from my experience is if the booking was offered to the driver and the driver accepted the booking before it was accepted by Uber, just like when a customer approaches a driver and he agrees to take them and then informs the Operator that he works for to put the booking against his vehicle. This is known as back filling.
15. I therefore did an experiment with a friend of mine who had signed up to the Uber platform and in a remote part of the City I did the following actions on the customer App supplied by Uber.
a) I asked my friend not to log onto the system and attempted to make a request for a vehicle, the App asked me to try again later.
b) I then asked my friend to log into his driver App and again made a request, which was offered to him and he accepted.
c) I then asked him not to accept my request.
d) My customer App then told me that no vehicles were available and to try again later.
16. This supported greatly my theory of the driver accepting the booking and can be tested by any authority by simply going to a remote area and attempting to request an Uber through its App.
17. I took this information to Sheffield City Council but it was not acted upon, because they could not prove my theory of the driver accepting the booking without a computer programme specialist to look into the data on Ubers system.
18. I was set back by this news, but carried on looking for supportive evidence. Simply because knowing all the legislation in the UK protecting the public that use this industry, I could not see how a system designed abroad could go to various countries and meet all legal requirements.
19. I found information in July 2015 where UberCanada Inc, Uber B.V. and Rasier Operations B.V.had been taken to court by the City of Toronto (Canada) because Uber stated that they did not require licensed drivers in Toronto due to them not being a Transportation Company.
20. The judge residing the case (found here) stated that the Uber platform that can be downloaded world-wide and used in numerous countries was in fact a peer to peer platform and not a booking App because it simply matched the customer request with the nearest available driver and the driver accepted, therefore Uber did not require the equivalent of an Operator’s license or its drivers to be licensed because Uber did not accept the booking and therefore its service was not a Taxi or Limousine Service which would require licenses in that City. This supports my theory.
21. This led me to locate an earlier case in April 2015 again in Canada, where the City of Edmonton also took Uber Canada to court (found here) where in Section 9 it states (paraphrasing) that Uber Canada is nothing to do with Uber B.V. that is based in the Netherlands and that again, the customer is put in contact with the driver to accept the booking.
22. In the UK, a recent Industrial Tribunal that involved Uber B.V., Uber London Limited and Uber Britannia Limited (found here) it was stated at Section 15 that ‘once a driver accepts, Uber London Limited confirms the booking to the passenger and allocates the trip to the driver’ which is as mentioned before back filling.
23. The witness statement by Jo Bertram (found here) in this Tribunal case states at Section 45 (quoted Verbatim) 
“A booking is not accepted  by ULL until a Driver has confirmed that they are available and willing to  take it.   Confirmation and acceptance then takes place by ULLalmost simultaneously”
It further clarifies (although a little more carefully worded) at Section 60 (quoted verbatim) “if theydo choose to take the trip, they will touch toconfirm to ULL that they are available andwilling to take the trip.    Having done so, ULLwill accept and confirm the booking to the Passenger on behalf of the Driver, and almostsimultaneously and instantaneously allocate thetrip to the Driver.”
24. On both counts, Jo Bertram who is the Regional General Manager for the UK, Ireland and Nordics states that ‘almost simultaneously’ the booking is recorded (back filled) by Uber. This is always mentioned after an explanation of the driver accepting the booking and the words almost simultaneously simply means after and not before, regardless of the time between such actions.
25. Further information gained due to a FOI I sent to Gateshead Council (found here) since learning that Uber had walked away from an application that it made there, several questions have now been raised and left unanswered by Uber, these questions support the link between Uber, Uber BV, the driver and the customer.
26. The questions are in regards to the actual contractual terms that each party must agree to in order to use the Uber platform.
1. If Uber has no involvement in the contract between the customer and the driver of the vehicle, who accepts the booking?
2. If Uber accepts the booking, how does it have no involvement in the contract between the customer and the driver?
3. If Uber considers that the driver accepts the booking, does it accept that the driver must also hold a Private Hire Operator licence to accept bookings?  If this is the case, what steps will Uber take the ensure that all bookings are only given to licensed operators?
(Note – reference to ‘Uber’ is to Uber BV, being the company that customers and drivers enter into agreements with for use of its app platform.)
Further questions that were asked by Gateshead Council follow; 
UBL was asked to clarify how the provisions in the contract for use of the Uber app by customers which purport to exclude Uber as a party to the contract between the customer and the driver could validly be interpreted as anything other than an unfair contract term.
What is the effect of the new contract that is created between the consumer and the driver?  Is it to the consumer's benefit?  What are the provisions of the new contract, e.g. does the consumer have any written rights under the new contract?  Are they provided with the name and address of the person / business with whom they are contracting and given details of rights and responsibilities to each party by the new contract?  Why does Uber do this?
Why no direct explanation was provided as to how the provision in the passenger contract excluding Uber as a party to the contract for the provision of transportation services booked through the Uber platform should not be deemed to be an unfair contract term by reference to schedule 2 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015?
Whether UBL would share the advice it had given to other Councils that had satisfied their concerns in relation to the above points?
UBL was asked to clarify whether it -
(a) accepts as operator that the contract for the hire of each vehicle is made with Uber and does not attempt to obviate those responsibilities by contracting out or creating secondary contracts between the passenger and driver
(b) maintains that the contract for hire exists between the passenger and driver, in which case each driver will need an operator licence; or 
(c) has a third potential scenario to explain its operating model.
UBL was also asked to answer the following questions - 
1. Why is the new contract created between the customer and driver necessary?
2. What are the terms of that contract?
3. What detail is the person making the booking given, at the time the contract is created, of– 
a. The terms of the contract
b. How the contract changes Uber’s obligations as a private hire operator
c. The person or company with whom they are contracting for the ‘transportation contract’
4. How is the new contract either neutral or beneficial to the person making the booking?
5. When the customer is considering which vehicle to select from the app, what information are they given about the person they will be contracting with, to help them choose which case to select?  Do they have sufficient information to, for example, avoid a transport provider that they do not wish to use?

27. My final information in support of my theory that Uber themselves do not accept the booking request, but rather the driver does was gained from an FOI to Reading Council (found here) where the officers stated:
“Officers are concerned that due to the way Uber works by listing the closest driver/vehicle to the customer, any vehicle from any borough within close proximity would be able to access the job and complete the booking.”
28. Furthermore, from the FOI stated above from Reading, the grant of and Operators License was refused. No challenge has been made by Uber against this refusal.
29. To summarise.
I believe that the information shown is enough evidence to prove that Uber do not accept the booking request of the customer, but the driver does. This then puts the driver the person responsible for the acceptance of the booking and in doing so is required by law to have an Operators License.
Basically, Uber operate illegally within the United Kingdom and should therefore, as has happened in numerous other countries throughout Europe be banned for the safety of the public, and the integrity of the trade which has served the British public within the laws that governs it for many, many years.
These laws were designed to protect the public, advances in technology do not make the laws out of date, or the purpose behind them. Technology can be written to work within the intention of the law, as many if not all other companies that produce this technology do so.
Should this be ignored, what is to stop a technology company from writing software that from the press of a button the driver has a booking automatically recorded from the vehicles position therefore circumventing Plying for Hire.
Lee Ward
ALPHA Chairman

Friday, July 14, 2017

Police Seize Uber Car After Crash In Brighton...No Insurance. Call For Operators Licence To Be Immediately Reviewed

On Friday July 14 2017 an Uber TfL minicab was involved in a collision in Brighton & Hove.

This vehicle was then seized by the police for having no insurance

Uber actively encourages not only TfL minicabs but also ph vehicles from all over the country including Leeds.. Wolverhampton... Liverpool .. Reigate to name just a few..... to work in Brighton & Hove despite promising the council that they would only use Brighton & Hove licensed vehicles and it was only by chance that this uber minicab being in a collision that it was found to be uninsured.

We hope that no party received any injuries.

The Brighton & Hove council have absolutely no control over protecting the public with Uber using vehicles not licensed by the council in the city and we call for the Uber Operators Licence to be immediately reviewed

The photographs of this incident that were taken from our Brighton & Hove Taxi Trade Forum Facebook Group were also published in the local paper:

Andrew Peters
GMB Brighton & Hove Taxi Section

No surprise, the BMW FY63OSK, was registered wth TfL in London, but was being used as a Private Hure car, working the Uber App in Brighton and Hove. 

MPs Warn Of Taxi Law Loopholes...TfL Accused Of Facilitating Abuse.

Safety measures around taxi licencing set up in the wake of the Rotherham abuse scandal are being circumvented by rogue drivers, a cross-party group of MPs has said.

Loopholes in national licencing laws are being exploited by private-hire cab drivers and their firms and are putting public safety at risk, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Taxis revealed.

More than 50 Rotherham taxi drivers were stripped of their licences last year after it emerged their cars were places of abuse or used to ferry girls around for sexual exploitation.

After the scandal emerged all taxi drivers in the town were required to install CCTV in their cabs and undertake DBS safety checks.

But in a new report the APPG on taxis said drivers were registering their licences in neighbouring authorities to circumvent the rules.

In Reading a ban on app-based taxi service Uber has ended up with its drivers applying for licences under the Slough and Windsor authority and continuing to work in the town.

And Southend drivers who had been banned for criminal convictions continued to drive under licences issued by Transport for London.

APPG chair and Labour MP Wes Streeting, who has written for PoliticsHome on the issue today, said: “Passenger safety is being put at risk because minicab drivers and operators are using loopholes in the law and a patchwork quilt of different safety standards across the country to flout rules introduced by local authorities to keep their residents safe.

“It is time for government to act to avoid a repeat of the Rotherham scandal.”

The APPG called for new national standards ensuring all taxi journeys begin or end in the local authority where the driver’s licence was issued.

It also demanded a national database of registered taxi and private hire drivers, new licencing standards across the UK and beefed up DBS checks.

Taxi Leaks Extra Comment:

TFL's Leon Daniels, bending over backwards to help with their 'special relationship' with Uber.

"Posing As Legitimate Minicab, Preferred Method Of Dangerous Sexual Predators"...Rachel Griffin, Susie Lamplugh Trust

        How will your night end???

Back in 2014, clause 10 was dropped from the deregulation bill that went through parliament. 

This would reflect the view that all over the UK, (except in London according to TfL) there is a massive public safety issue, and that only licensed private hire drivers should be driving licensed private hire vehicles. 

Unfortunately for the traveling public in London, TfL say that anyone can drive a private hire minicab around the capital, whether they are licensed as a PH driver or not. 

This includes people who just want to avoid paying the congestion charge, but also, (and even more worrying) dangerous sexual predators looking for fresh prey, can purchase a minicab, complete with TfL licence roundels, without holding a PH driver's or operator's licence and in the case of sexual predators, go straight out and look for fresh victims. 

How hard would it be to produce these?

Taxi drivers have to have a purpose built vehicle, carrying both a registration number plate from the DVLA and also a TfL Hackney Carriage plate, plus we are also required to have our badge number emblazoned on the ID card identifying the driver. 

Acting as a Minicab driver, is the most favoured method of a sexual predictor (according to Rachel Griffin of the Susie Lamplugh  trust). Currently, TFL's Minicabs are only required to have an unreadable yellow disc, in most cases obscured by blacked out windows. 

Considering the security status we currently find ourselves in, it should be imperative that only TfL registered drivers should be allowed to drive minicabs. 

The drivers of minicabs should themselves be identifiable and should be matchable to a particular vehicle by means of their badge number, clearly displayed on front and rear windows.

If TfL can mandate Credit Cards in all London Taxis, then they must be able to mandate that licensed Minicabs can only be sold to TfL licensed PH drivers, with the caveat that any person driving a minicab must hold a PH licence. 

This won't stop the attacks and rapes but it will make identifying the attacker easier.  

Silent Sadiq Khant:
Our hypocrite of a Mayor, the one who refuses to meet with the Taxi trade orgs has recently written to the Home Secretary demanding more resources to protect against "marauding terrorist attacks". 

And yet Under Khan, TfL and the Met turn a blind eye to TfL registered minicabs (which could be bought and driven by anyone) parked up and waiting at all major mainline stations. 

TfL recently announced that PH driver numbers exceeded 117,000. 

A recent FOI request has shown that Sexual assaults including rapes in just Uber cars, has increased from 32, by a record 50% to 48 on the previous year. That's almost 1 a week.
Assuming Uber are no worse than other PH drivers, and currently make up approx 20% of the PH trade, going on the law of average, there could be many serious sexual attacks weekly across London. 

On top of this, you also have the unlicensed predators.

Yet our licensing authority seem more concerned with Taxi drivers, over ranking at main line stations!!!

Compliance teams regularly turn a blind eye to PH and in many cases are regularly overstepping their authority. 

Taxi Leaks have recently received a number of complaints from drivers who say they have been told by COs at Euston, they are going to be reported for wearing their badges on lanyards that are too long.
So it's ok for a terrorist to park outside a major rail link, but Taxi drivers mustn't wear their lanyards too long!!!

Since when have TFL's COs become fashion police?

Could someone from TfLTPH please show me where in the legislation or regulations it gives the required length of Lanyards because I can't find it in any Hackney carriage act of in the Abstract of Law.

Many COs are refusing to show drivers their authorisation ID cards, after showing the driver just their sherif style badge (they are legally obliged to show their ID).

Drivers have also been asked to unscrew their insurance cover notes so COs can examine more closely.

This is totally ridiculous behaviour from TFL's COs and totally unacceptable. 

Remember, always ask to see a COs authorisation card and photograph it with your phone (you have the right to do this). Should the CO refuse, then do not comply with any of his/her requests.

Also, if asked to sign their hand held PDA, you have the right to refuse.

The training given to these officers from TfL is inefficient and woefully inadequate. Most of this new batch of COs haven't got a clue what act or regulation they are supposedly trying to enforce.

Photo and comment by Alex White (LCDC)
Jim, there is actually a roundal in the back of this merc, I was standing next to compliance when I took this picture and I complained to them they did nothing other than to say some ph have exclusions.

     Here another one from today

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Urgent call for a STATUTORY PUBLIC INQUIRY into TfL

On Friday 6th January 2017, a meeting took place with the Prime Minister Theresa May, asking for a Statutory Public Inquiry into Transport for London (TfL). During the meeting, Mrs May was handed documents to support the London Taxi drivers request.

Since then, the Daily Mail have published stories detailing the 'corrupt culture' embedded within central government, TfL and Uber.

It's now become a national issue as TfL's alleged malfeasance is affecting taxi drivers and tax payers across the UK as the exchequer will suffer through the loss of millions in tax revenue which will need to be filled by the you the General Public, so we need to put pressure on the Prime Minister to grant a full STATUTORY PUBLIC INQUIRY into TfL.

You can help by completing a short form to send a pre-written and personalised email (see examples on this page) to your local MP, these have been written from your perspective. In addition to this, we would highly recommend you request a visit to their constituents surgery to personally ask for assistance.

To keep updated on this Public Inquiry please follow @point_cab on Twitter.

Please insert your Post Code below to find your local Constituency and MP.

Key Uber Employee Leaves the Embattled Tech Company In Yet Another Sex Scandal

The Uber manager who headed Susan Fowler’s department has departed

AG Gangadhar ran the engineering unit where the former female engineer — whose blog post on sexism sparked recent investigations — worked.

AG Gangadhar, was the director of the department buffeted by an allegation of sexual harassment and discrimination.

Five months ago, ex-Uber engineer Susan J. Fowler published a blog post, in which she said she had repeatedly complained about sexual harassment and discrimination at the ride-sharing company, but was ignored or punished.  

In the post, Fowler also said she had requested to transfer out of her department but, “according to my manager, his manager, and the director, my transfer was being blocked” due to undocumented performance problems. 

In reality, she claims she had a perfect performance score and there hadn’t been any complaints about her performance.

In addition, emails obtained indicate that engineers within Fowler’s department complained to higher-ups that Gangadhar and a subordinate manager were ignoring Fowler’s issues with another manager who had allegedly sexually harassed her.

“Multiple people are pissed off about this stuff being swept under the rug and not being taken more seriously that a new [lady engineer] was sexually harassed by a former manager,” read one email sent to Uber CTO Thuan Pham’s former executive assistant. That person later responded that Pham was aware of the situation and would discuss it with human resources.

That manager who Fowler claimed harassed her was fired five months after she first complained about him to human resources.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The APPG On Taxis Report, Lessons From London : The Future Of The UK Taxi Trade

Watch Wes Streeting's speech, by clicking HERE

The APPG on Taxis today launched their comprehensive report Lessons from London: the future of the UK taxi trade after a three month investigation led by its Chair Wes Streeting MP. It calls on the Government to give the Mayor of London the power to cap the number of Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs) on London’s streets, stop cross border hiring, and set out a robust set of minimum licensing standards for taxis and PHVs across the country.

The pollution and congestion on London’s streets is no long sustainable, with nearly 9,500 deaths each year caused by long term exposure to air pollution and congestion on the rise due to the massive increase in PHVs on London’s streets – now standing at 120,000 according to Transport for London. To limit the increasing numbers of PHVs and improve congestion and air quality, the Mayor of London has asked Government for the power to cap PHVs as part of his recently launched Mayor’s Transport Strategy.

This cap in London will be ineffective without the Government acting to stop ‘cross border hiring’, as PHV drivers could simply avoid it by being licensed in neighbouring authorities such as Watford. Councils across the country are currently unable to effectively regulate who operates in their area due to the Deregulation Act 2015. When Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council tried to institute tough new licensing regulations last year in the aftermath of the child grooming scandal, they found that taxi and PHV drivers could avoid them by being licenced in neighbouring authorities and then legally operating in Rotherham. 

The report makes a number of recommendations, including calling on the Government to:

  • Grant the Mayor of London and any other Mayors or combined authorities who request it, the power to cap the number of PHVs;
  • Create a statutory definition of cross border hiring whereby a journey must “begin or end in the licensing authority where the licence was issued”;
  • Consult on statutory guidance for taxi and PHV licensing and set out a robust set of minimum licensing standards for all licensing authorities.
You can read the report by clicking here

Oxford city council targets it's 107 licensed taxis to cut emissions

Oxford city council plans to phase out older taxis from operating within the city, and will look to invest over £500,000 for the installation of dedicated electric car charging points, it has announced today (11 July).

The investment forms part of a wider plan to reduce air pollutant emissions within the city, after it was revealed that air quality improvements in Oxford have begun to slow down after improvements made following the introduction of a Low Emission Zone in 2014 (see story).

Changes to licensing requirements for taxis operating in Oxford are expected to come into effect from 2018
The city council is working with the City of Oxford Licensed Taxicab Association (COLTA) on the scheme, which will see 19 electric vehicle charging points installed for the exclusive use of hackney and private hire taxis. The council’s aim is to install the first seven in 2018, and the remaining 12 in 2019.

The council has also announced its intention to set an age limit on all hackney carriages operating in Oxford of 18 years and require all newly-licenced hackney carriages to be ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) – with licensing changes expected to come into effect from the end of 2018.

Public health
Councillor John Tanner, executive board member for a clean and green Oxford, said: “Oxford has illegal levels of air pollution in some parts of the city, which is affecting the health of residents. Every vehicle in Oxford is contributing to this major public health emergency.

“We are working with the county council on plans to introduce a Zero Emission Zone from 2020, which will restrict access to Oxford city centre for emitting vehicles, and will go a long way to getting air pollution below legal limits. This new scheme will provide the electric vehicle charging infrastructure to help get Oxford’s hackney cabs ready for 2020.”

The charging points will be ‘rapid’ and ‘fast’ chargers to enable drivers to quickly charge batteries during breaks, according to the council.

Charging points
The locations will be finalised following consultation with drivers, but potential locations include Oxford Rail Station, Gloucester Green, London Road, Cowley Road, St Giles, Summertown car park, and Redbridge and Seacourt park and rides.

The city council was awarded £370,000 of funding from the Government’s Office for Low Emissions Vehicles for the project. It will also seek to secure the remaining funding from private investment.

It is hoped that the infrastructure and licensing changes will see nitrogen dioxide emissions from Oxford’s 107 licenced hackney carriages reduce by 50% by 2020.