London Slaps Tighter Rules on Uber Drivers as Cab War Rages

BRITAIN-PROTEST-TAXI-UBER-TRANSPORT

Taxi drivers block Whitehall as they demonstrate against Uber in central London on Feb. 10, 2016.

Photographer: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images
  • Transport authority ups requirements, including on insurance
  • Cites ``unprecented increase'' of chauffeured-car services

Uber drivers in London are facing stricter policy guidelines from the transportation authority as chauffeured-car services steal clients from the city’s iconic black cabs.

Drivers for companies like Uber Technologies Inc. must comply with English-language requirements and better identify themselves to customers, Transport for London said Friday without mentioning one specific car service. Tighter constraints on areas from insurance to fare estimates come in response to an “unprecedented increase” in demand for private-hire drivers, the authority said.

By disrupting the taxi industry, whose drivers often pay steep fees for licenses and permits, Uber has had ups and downs in cities around Europe. Upheaval from the city’s black cabs has been unprecedented, leading to battles with regulators and in court amid consultations that have been going on for months. There have been a few victories: Mayor Boris Johnson in January dropped a rule requiring Uber to wait five minutes before picking up passengers.

A representative for Uber in the U.K. declined to comment on the announcement from Transport for London.

Uber’s approach has broadly been to experiment in new cities and routes and cope with potential backlash afterward. In India, it’s motorcycle taxi service was suspended. The company separately agreed to limit its service to drivers with a license and share traffic data with city officials in Moscow to avoid a ban there. Uber also said it will start a new service for Americans who want to cross the Mexican border.

Uber has also expanded into transporting goods like food, and is exploring further avenues. Zalando SE, Europe’s biggest online fashion retailer, is testing new methods of express deliveries and has said an alliance with Uber could make it easier for customers to return unwanted merchandise.

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