The battle between Londons black cabs and upstart incomer Uber has been a relatively subdued affair thus far ? aside from?the odd scuffle and some roadblocking?demonstrationslast year. Not for Brits the?violent displays of anger seen over the channel in France last summer.
But despite the lack of open street warfare in London theres still no love lost between Londons distinctive?? and heavily regulated ? Black Cabs and the Silicon Valley upstart.
And now a group of London Black Cab supporters, called Action for Cabbies, is hoping to step?up the?fight by launching a crowdfunding campaign to push for a judicial review of Transport for Londons 2012 decision to grant Uber a licence to operate in the city.
Its arguing that the procedures followed were wrong and that TfL has subsequently failed to enforce the law.?The group is led by Artemis Mercer, the wife of a cabbie, who has also been running a campaign group on Facebook.
TfL is inept, they really need to stop faffing around. Bringing in new legislation to cap the amount of new licences that theyre issuing ? Im told its about nearly 800 a week last week. Touting is going on, there arent adequate insurance checks or legal background checks with a lot of these PHV new licences. Its paramount to public safety that TfL regulates and theyre not doing that. And theyre operating outside their remit by giving licences and creating operators who operate outside the legal framework.
The legal framework thats in place has got public safety at the heart of it. And it creates a two tier system between private hire vehicles and black?taxis. When TfL issued Uber London a licence in 2012 they effectively created a third tier system ? so they went from being a law regulator to a law enforcer and acting outside of their remit, she adds, arguing that this third tier system compromises public safety. Were saying that TfL were wrong in their decision to grant Uber a licence.
Last year Londons mayor, Boris Johnson, effectively voiced support?for this point of view, writing in?The Telegraph that: At present that law is being systematically broken ? or at least circumvented ? by the use of the Uber app, and adding: ?Until Parliament has the guts to change the law we must uphold the existing and long-standing legal distinctions between black cabs and minicabs.
Specific regulations Mercer flags as being undermined by the three tier system she argues is effectively in place given Ubers presence on Londons road include wheelchair accessibility, stringent background checks on drivers and local road knowledge expertise. She also notes that black cabs are regulated on the price they can charge ? so cant impose surge pricing at will as Uber does.
Action for Cabbies is looking to raise?600,000, via Crowdfunder.co.uk, to finance?an initial stage of what it hopes will?become a full-blown legal challenge to?Ubers licence to operate in London. The?first tranche of sought funds will?cover applying to the court?for permission to bring an application for judicial review against TfL.
If that application is successful, more funds would then be needed to finance the next stage of the legal challenge.?If permission is granted the application would then be heard in open Court with both parties having the right to make their case, notes the groups lawyers, Rosenblatt Solicitors, in a statement. It may be that Uber itself would appear in Court too on the basis that it has a vested interest in the outcome and if so they would have the chance also to make their case.
In Germany, taxi association Taxi Deutschland, has had considerable success in?squeezing Uber out of the domestic market. Last November?Uber pulled out of three German cities ? citing difficulties getting enough drivers, and blaming regulatory complexities for that?? albeit?the move followed a court ban on Uber using unlicensed drivers earlier in the year.?Uber is now operational only in Berlin and Munich in Germany (although in the former?it only runs a service that uses regular licensed taxis to fulfill rides hailed via its app ? with its UberPop service having been banned).
Why has it taken Londons black cabbies some four years to get round to trying to challenge Ubers licence, given the success of such?coordinated action?in Germany?
I cant really answer that question, says Mercer, noting shes not part of an official black cab organization. Im a cabbies wife that set up a Facebook group in May last year thats now got over 20,000 followers between Facebook and Twitter. And this opportunity was given to me to act as a neutral body to bring all the 25,000 cabbies together.