No further investigations into Uber’s operating systems says TfL following fresh trade concerns

Updated: Apr 18

London’s transport regulators ‘do not currently intend to carry out any further investigations’ into ride-hailing firm Uber’s operating systems despite fresh concerns from the taxi industry.

The response follows a challenge made to Transport for London (TfL) to make an urgent review into how private hire operators accept bookings in the capital, following a landmark Supreme Court judgment earlier this year.

During the Court’s ruling which handed Uber drivers basic workers’ rights, the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) described a section of the judgment which questions how bookings are taken on the Uber platform as the ‘biggest revelation’.

Last month the LTDA submitted a letter to TfL’s Legal team asking them to ‘urgently reconsider whether London PHV operators who purport to accept bookings as agent for unlicensed PHV drivers are trading lawfully’.

At the time the letter was sent, Steve McNamara, LTDA General Secretary, said to members: “The biggest revelation is hidden deep inside the Supreme Court Judgement handed down by Lord Leggat, but agreed with unanimously by the other five members of the Supreme Court.

“In the ruling, the Court questions the legality of how Uber accepts bookings and concludes that ‘the driver, as well as Uber London, accepts the booking’ This is the exact point our lawyers made to TfL in 2017 during the first Uber licensing appeal!

“The same 'unlawful' booking acceptance procedure is used by dozens of private hire car operators across London, and our lawyers have today written to TfL requesting an urgent review of how private hire operators accept bookings.”

In response to the letter, Jake Stafford, TfL Legal, wrote to the LTDA saying: “Your letter suggests that – in light of the Court’s reasoning – ULL’s (Uber London Limited) systems (and those of other operators with similar contractual provisions) are unlawful. We do not agree. The Court concluded that ULL’s current system is not unlawful (vis-à-vis accepting bookings) because ULL does not accept bookings as agent.

“As you point out, in 2018 TfL asked ULL to change its booking systems, to put beyond doubt the fact that it is ULL, and not its drivers, who are accepting the bookings. As you are aware, passengers are now told – in terms – that Uber has accepted their booking (and the booking is logged on ULL’s systems) before it is forwarded to any driver. We do not consider that the conclusions set out in the Judgment undermine our conclusion – in 2018 – that ULL’s booking systems are lawful in this respect.

“In the light of the above, we do not currently intend to carry out any further investigations into ULL’s operating systems at this time.

“TfL published a TPH Notice about the Judgment and reminding operators to notify TfL of any material changes to their operating model which may affect their compliance with the 1998 Act and associated obligations. TfL keeps all operators’ licences under review and it will take action to ensure compliance where appropriate.”

In an exclusive interview with Jamie Heywood, TaxiPoint asked Uber’s Regional General Manager for Northern and Eastern Europe: “The Supreme Court has raised debate over who takes the customer booking first. Can you explain whether it’s Uber or the driver?”

Heywood responded saying: “Uber London Limited accepts the booking as the registered private hire operator for London, in compliance with the regulatory regime. This remains unchanged.”