Now that the dust has settled we take a look at the current situation surrounding Uber.
I think we all remember the tweet from Jo Bertram after Ubers victory over TfL regarding the "is it or isn't it" a meter court case a couple of years ago. I believe the tweet said "Uber do-be-do".....Well I'm afraid Ms Bertram that as of today "Uber do-be-don't."
Humour aside we now need to take stock of this situation. Today TfL, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Taxis, the licensed London taxi industry across the board and the private hire industry have collectively given Uber a bloody nose, lets not forget that they are the symptom of a greater disease, they are an opportunistic by-product to a much greater problem..... failing legislation and its inability to keep up with technology.
The first thing that will happen is that Uber will immediately try and mobilise their customer base through e-mails and social media, prompting their customers to set up petitions and protest. This sort of behaviour is nothing out of the ordinary, it is nothing more than a bullying tactic against any given regulator. Public opinion is important because it shapes what we do and how we live as a society BUT petitions are inconsequential and should be deemed as such where a company, any company clearly breaches the law. The public will sign these petitions solely based on a financial or convenience issue and have no interest in the political nor legislative side of the industry. This therefore diminishes the effectiveness of any petition signed. That said it should be recognised that the public must be listened to in relation to how both the taxi and PHV industry should move forward. This begs the question as to whether Uber have the right to operate..... The simple answer is yes, thats right, they have the right to operate..... providing that they operate within the strict framework of the law and don't try to deliberately circumvent that legislation either directly or by stealth..... the same as any other PHV operator in London.
Both Uber and their supporters will peddle the myth that 40000 Uber drivers will be made unemployed by this decision, this is untrue. There are a large proportion of drivers that are cross-platforming, working for one company and using the Uber app to complement the work they obtain from their existing PHV firm. There are also a proportion of drivers who are dormant and don't drive a PHV yet remain on the platform, there are a proportion of drivers that are part-time drivers and finally there are currently 13000 Uber drivers whos' Disclosure Barring Service checks are under question due to the issues surrounding Onifido. Some of these drivers may not have been suitable to drive for Uber, nor any other phv company in the first place and therefore should never have been granted a phv license. Overall, drivers will simply move to a different phv company or platform and continue working, there are around 2000 phv companies in London, therefore the claims of 40000 drivers out of work is to quote the words of an employment tribunal judge "faintly ridiculous."
According to sources within the trade, Uber have 21 days to appeal from the date of the expiry of their license, September 30th 2017. They can continue operating through this 21 day period. If they appeal via a Judicial Review a judge can potentially grant them a temporary licence on appeal and they can then continue operating until the appeals process is exhausted. Uber can of course appeal via TfLs own appeals process which can potentially take longer. In theory Uber could resolve their issues and become fully compliant with current legislation and subsequently obtain a license. At the moment the process is unclear and it would be irresponsible to speculate as to what happens next
The reality of the situation is this, if Uber go, who is coming in? Until issues such as cross-border hiring, the ability for a regulator to cap PHV numbers and a full legal definition of what plying for hire is are put into the statute books then both the taxi and private hire industry will be continually under threat from the spurious workings of the gig economy. We do not want a phyrric victory, we need a complete end to this war, a war that can be ended by our government through fast-tracking the recommendations set within the All Party Parliamentary Group for taxis into legislation.
Prevention is better than cure.
It needs to be recognised that there has been some incredible work done on many fronts from both within the taxi industry and from outside of it. The taxi industry must not be complacent and rest on its laurels.