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The UK High Court has ruled that Uber, the minicab-hailing app, does not break the law.
Transport for London ("TfL") sought clarity from the High Court as to whether the Uber app constitutes a 'taximeter' which, if answered in the affirmative, would put Uber in breach of s11(1) of the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 ('the Act') which bans all private hire cars from being equipped with taximeters.
Black cab drivers had argued that the use of a smartphone to track a journey using GPS signals and subsequently using that data to calculate the cost of that journey deemed the smart phone a 'device used for calculating the cost of a journey' and satisfied the definition of 'taximeter'.
Mr Justice Ouseley agreed with the view of TfL itself and ruled that Uber's app operates differently to a taximeter. It is not a device for calculating fares but rather the smartphone just forwarded GPS data to a server located outside the vehicle which calculated the cost of the journey.
The chairman of the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association has said it will definitely appeal against this decision in the Supreme Court. Black cab drivers claim Uber drivers are being given the advantage of operating a taximeter-style charging system without having to undergo the rigorous licensing process which black cab drivers must endure.
In the meantime, Uber can continue to operate in London as usual. Uber's UK regional general manager Jo Bertram said, "this is great news for Londoners and a victory for common sense". The ruling is a welcome step towards full recognition for Uber and similar companies that represent innovation and widened customer choice in the private hire market.
However, if TfL decides to implement its proposed regulatory changes for the private hire market, this ruling will be irrelevant as one of the proposals is that all private hire vehicle operators must state their fare before accepting a booking. Other proposals that could be particularly damaging to Uber include a mandatory five-minute wait time, restrictions on ride-sharing and a ban on maps showing animated cars that are immediately available.