London taxi drivers vow to appeal after court rules Uber app legal

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A taxi drivers’ association said it plans to appeal a Friday court ruling that an Uber fare-calculation app complies with British law.

A judge ruled that Uber’s app, which uses GPS tracking to calculate fares, had not breached a law that prohibits private-hire vehicles from installing meters operating in the same way as those used by licensed taxis.

The London transport authority had asked the court to clarify the law after representatives of London’s 25,000 licensed taxi drivers complained that mini-cab drivers’ use of Uber was illegal because it effectively turns a smartphone into a taxi meter.

“Unbelievable!” The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, which represents many licensed “black cab” drivers, said on Twitter after Friday’s ruling.

“[The Uber app] uses time and distance to calculate fares and it’s not a meter?” the LTDA said, adding that it had lodged an appeal with Britain’s Supreme Court.

But Uber and Transport for London, a government agency which regulates the city’s taxis and other transport, both welcomed the ruling.

Uber said it was “a victory for common sense.”

“We understand that black cab drivers are feeling the pressure from services like Uber,” the company said.

“But the answer is to reduce today’s burdensome regulations on cabbies, not introduce new regulations on an entire industry,” it said.

Transport for London said the ruling had vindicated its view that “smartphones are not taxi meters.”

“With the legal position now clarified, TfL will continue to work with a wide range of stakeholders to deliver safe, modern and innovative taxi and private hire services to the benefit of customers,” it said.

The transport authority said it would continue public consultation on amending regulations that were “written well before new technologies and innovative business models widened the choices available to customers.”

The number of private-hire drivers in London could rise from the current 89,000 to some 128,000 within two years if the current growth rate continues, it said.

The authority has asked the central government to allow it to cap the number of private-hire drivers.

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