Sunday, May 11, 2014

London cabbies plan to put brakes on app

May 10, 2014

LONDON - About 10,000 of London's professional taxi drivers plan to bring "chaos, congestion and confusion" in a protest against the growing presence of smartphone taxi app Uber.

London's black cab drivers argue that the apps used by Uber's drivers to find passengers and calculate their fares should be considered taximeters - which are illegal if installed in private vehicles.

But their argument has been rejected by London transport authorities, which said that Uber's vehicles are not "equipped" with taximeters since there was no "connection between the device and the vehicle".

"All we're saying is if you want to come to London and operate the business model you're operating, you should operate within our laws," Mr Steve McNamara, the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association general secretary, said.

San Francisco-based Uber describes itself only as a "pick-up" service that connects passengers with background-checked private drivers, said London's Independent newspaper.

The smartphone app allows users to order taxis, see who their driver will be and track the arrival of their cars - features also replicated by other apps Hailo and Kabbee, which offer to connect passengers to London black cabs and minicabs respectively.

Fees are based on data gathered by the driver's app and whether "surge pricing" is in effect because of heavy demand, said the BBC.

Uber was launched five years ago and now operates in more than 100 cities across 30 countries. But it has encountered many protests from the taxi industry, in which drivers often pay high fees for licences and permits.

Cars in Brussels that use the app will be subject to a €10,000 (S$17,300) fine after a court ruled against Uber last month.

In Berlin, the taxi association said that Uber hurt competition by violating rules that force limousine drivers to return to a base after delivering customers.

A French attempt to impose a 15-minute pickup delay on Uber and other private car services was struck down in February by the constitutional court.

The firm is also facing restrictions on its operations in Sydney and a number of US cities, said the BBC.


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