High Court to rule on smartphone fares in Uber controversy

Credit: PA Wire

A long-running battle between black cab drivers and private hire cars is about to reach the High Court.

Transport for London and controversial minicab-hailing app Uber are seeking clarification as to whether smartphones, used by some private hire drivers, can lawfully be used to calculate fares.

The crucial issue is whether the phones, which use GPS technology and connect to external servers to carry out calculations, are taximeters, which are prohibited in private hire vehicles in London.

The main trade bodies, the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association and Licensed Private Hire Car Association, are also joining in the application for judicial review.

TfL has stated that, on balance, it believes smartphones are not taximeters but concedes there are clearly arguments to the contrary and there is a significant public interest in resolving the matter definitively.

Black cab drivers have been upset with Uber's tactics Credit: PA Wire

Leon Daniels, TfL's managing director of surface transport, said: "It is in everyone's interest to bring legal clarity to the issue of taximeters and to review the current regulations that were written well before smartphones were invented."

Black cab drivers have demonstrated in the capital against TfL's handling of regulation for private hire car companies, in particular Uber, and suggested that the ride-sharing taxi app puts public safety at risk.

The chief executive of one private hire company has warned Uber drivers they could be outlawed overnight.

Liam Griffin, CEO of Addison Lee, said, “Uber has recruited thousands of innocent minicab drivers and convinced them to use the Uber taxi meter without warning them of the potential risks.

"If the High Court hearing goes against them, literally thousands of Uber drivers could be at risk of a fine and a criminal record”.

Uber has hit out against proposals to tighten private hire regulation following TfL's launching of a consultation on a series of measures that would affect minicab drivers in the capital and is urging its customers to sign a petition as it warned the plans "will mean an end to the Uber you know and love today".