Uber Gets Boost From London Court Ruling on Taxi Meters

  • Transport authority asked London judge to decide legal status
  • Cab associations argued Uber drivers covered by meter rules
Source: Dorling Kindersley via Getty Images

Uber Technologies Inc. got a boost from a London judge who said smartphones used by its drivers aren’t the same as taxi meters and don’t require a license from the city’s transport authority.

Transport for London asked the judge to rule on the status of technology used by the ride-hailing service. Cab driver associations joined the case to argue that Uber should be subject to rules barring private cars from using meters.

The regulations don’t cover “a device that relies on GPS signal in the course of a journey and forwards GPS data to a server,” Judge Duncan Ouseley said.

Uber is fighting legal battles around the world brought by taxi drivers who say the San Francisco-based company gets to avoid regulations that bind established competitors. London cabbies -- who require years of training to pass a licensing test -- have clogged roads and threatened criminal complaints against four Uber drivers.

“This is great news for Londoners and a victory for common sense,” said Jo Bertram, a U.K. manager at Uber, in an e-mailed statement. “We hope Transport for London will think again on their bureaucratic proposals for apps like Uber.”

The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, which represents the city’s famous black cabs, intends to appeal to the U.K. Supreme Court, according to a post on its Twitter account. The group called the ruling “unbelievable.”’

Hailo, a company whose phone application hails black cabs, called for a level-playing field for drivers.

“London’s rules are there for a reason --- to guarantee world-class standards, and to stop discrimination,” its chief executive officer, Andrew Pinnington, said in a statement.

In September, TFL proposed new rules for taxi services. Under the proposals, drivers of private-hire minicabs face English-language and navigational tests, stricter insurance requirements and limits on bookings.

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