LTDA To Take Out Summonses Against 6 Uber Drivers.

By Jim Thomas/Taxileaks

According to their twitter page, yesterday Friday the 30th of May, the LTDA formally applied for summonses against 6 uber drivers for offences under the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998.
The LTDA have stated from day one, that the demo to be held on June 11th is not about the Uber issue. It’s solely about the incompetent administration of the a Taxi and Private hire industries by TfL. Uber is just a small part of their incompetence.
However, TfL’s PR department has gone into melt down.
The worlds media have been fed story after story about how the “Greedy London Cabbies” are up in arms at a bit of competition from a TfL stakeholder.
The media in the United States are all carrying stories of how the London Taxi drivers are going to bring London to its knees because they don’t like the heat of competition from the billion dollar backed American company, who’s business is registered in the tax heaven of Holland.
Our own press are full of the same type of stories, plus BBC, ITV and LBC are all going with the Uber theme to the June Demo.
Not one story in any form of media, has gone with the truth.
TfL have decided to defuse the situation by asking a high court judge to define the meaning of the word “Taximeter”.
Why wasn’t this done when Uber first applied for an operators licence two years ago?
Suddenly, after news of a Taxi Trade demonstration, TfL now need a judge to give them a definition, of a word they have been using in respect of the administration of the Private Hire Act for the passed 14 years.
Are TfL now a Licensing Authority with no authority?
Are they finally admitting the the Private a Hire Act 1998 is unclear and unenforceable?
Thinking that this action could take years to come to fruition, they now believe this should be enough to defer any impending demo and have asked the LTDA to postpone any action until after a legally binding judgement has been made.
                  Well think again TfL.
The demo was never about Uber
It has always been about TfL’s incompetent administration and the fact they are totally failing taxi and private hire drivers, plus putting public safety at risk on a daily basis.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: An authority, out of control?
Let’s just remind ourselves that back in 2007 when satellite offices first became common place, head of Cab Enforecment Unit Joe Royal state that in his opinion these new licences were unenforceable.
And with the benefit of hindsight, Joe was bang on the button.
Why was the need for planning permission for PH operators licences dropped?
Why was TfL’s policy in respect of the acquisition of licence variation changed in 2012?
Allowing operators to recieve multiple licences without the requirement of being in business for a minimum of one year.
Why were Uber granted a Private Hire licence having no landline facility for taking booking?
Did a TfL compliance team check out Uber’s facilities before granting the licence?
Why have TfL cut enforcement manpower to the bone?
Why have TfL adopted a blind eye attitude to illegal plying for hire?
Questions that need to be addressed.
As always, space will be made available on this blog, should TfL wish to answer these questions.

Young woman sexually assaulted by what she thought was a minicab.

A 21-year-old woman was sexually assaulted in Aldershot after she got into a car that she thought was a taxi.
 
The victim left The Funky End pub on Friday 23rd May at 2am and was standing on a traffic island in Station Road for about 30 minutes.
 
At around 2.30am, the woman then got into a dark-coloured car which she believed was a minicab.
 
She was then driven away to Station Road and was then seriously sexually assaulted.
 
The woman was later seen on foot at Aldershot Train Station at about 3.30am.
 
We are extremely keen to hear from anyone who may have seen this woman in the early hours of Saturday or anyone who has information which could help this investigation.
 
Make sure you look after your friends and use licensed taxis when you need to travel home.”
 
– CHIEF INSPECTOR ANNABEL BERRY
Also in the news earlier this week.
Rapist jailed eight years after attack through DNA match following minicab touting arrest.

Mohammed Kobir Ahmed aged 34, from Seyssel Street, London, E14 has been found guilty of rape and sentenced to six years in prison after his DNA was matched to an offence he committed eight years ago.

​In 2005 the City of London Police investigated a rape after a woman was assaulted in the Cannon Street area in the Square Mile. Officers exhausted all leads but were unable to find a match for the suspects DNA taken from the victim.​​​
However, eight years later investigating officers were sent a DNA match report after a man was arrested in 2013 for a minicab touting offence in the West End. This was enough evidence to arrest Ahmed on suspicion of rape.
When asked about the offence, Ahmed denied the allegation of rape and stated that he had only ever had sexual intercourse with his wife and had no knowledge of Cannon Street in the City of London.
Officers then searched his property finding documents evidencing that he was working as a restaurant owner near Cannon Street when the offence occurred.
Detective Constable Nicola Allen from the forces Major Investigation Team said:
“The success of this investigation owes a huge debt to old fashioned detective work by a committed team, but also to the advancement of DNA profiling.
It sends a strong message to those committing sexual offences that they will be found no matter how long it may take.”
He was later found guilty of rape at the Old Bailey on 16 May 2014.

When Is A Minicab, Not A Minicab? When It’s Avoiding Congestion Charge.

Boris puts up Congestion Charge And Goes After Non-Payments From Forgein Embassies.
But some motorists are fighting back. Many have registered their vehicles as Private Hire Cars and avoid paying a weekly £70 in congestion charges.
As TfL do not check to see if the vehicle is being used for the purpose it is licensed, the scam is flourishing.
We expect to see a lot more vehicles licensed as minicabs after the news Boris was to increase the congestion charge, to pay for a new cycling superhighway.
Boris himself has a history when it comes to non payment of the congestion charge:
Before his election to the Mayors office, Boris agreed to test drive the Kia on behalf of the Guardian newspaper. After test driving a Kia Picanto for five days, it transpired Boris had accrued five London congestion charge fines.
Boris eventually left the car outside the paper’s London HQ, Grays Inn Road, where it was ticketed, clamped and finally towed away.
This from the Mail Online 3 June 2011:
Fans of London mayor Boris Johnson applaud his gumption in tackling President Obama (during the state visit) about the U.S. Embassy’s £5.5million of unpaid London congestion charges.
But What Do They a Think Of Boris At Kia The Korean Carmaker?
Six years ago, after test driving a Kia Picanto for The Guardian, Boris clocked up five London congestion charges.
Then he left the car outside the paper’s London HQ, where it was ticketed, clamped and towed away.
A Kia source said: ‘This cost us the best part of £500. He drove it into town every day, didn’t bother paying the congestion charges, then dumped it.’

TfL Go To High Court Over Taximeter v SmartPhone Issue.

 
           STATEMENT FROM TfL:

Transport for London (TfL), which regulates and licenses the taxi and private hire trades in the capital in the interests of passengers, is to invite the High Court to rule on whether smart phones that use GPS technology to measure the time and distance of a journey and then receive information about fares comply with current law on ‘taximeters’, which can only be used in London by taxis.

The rapid pace at which smart phone based technology has been developing in recent years has led to a need for clarity about what is required in order for apps to comply with the regulatory framework in London and to ensure there is a level playing field for all operators.
TfL has listened to the taxi and private hire trades, sought to address the concerns raised, and is taking the following action:
· To avoid any future ambiguity, TfL will hold a consultation with the trades on what amendments may be necessary to the regulations on recording particulars of private hire bookings, including journey destinations, to keep them clear and relevant in a changing world and to promote public safety.
· TfL set out its provisional view that smart phones used by private hire drivers – which act as GPS tracking devices to measure journey distances and time taken, and relays information so that fares can be calculated remotely from the vehicle – do not constitute the equipping of a vehicle with a ‘taximeter’.
· However, given the level of concern among the trade, and the fact that some of the legislation in this area is unclear and able to be interpreted in various ways, TfL is to invite the High Court to give a binding determination on this issue.
· TfL has carried out its largest ever compliance investigation – scrutinising Uber’s record keeping and business model. TfL has found that Uber meets the current requirements on record keeping, including in relation to ensuring its drivers hold the relevant licenses and insurance. TfL remains concerned about certain technical aspects of Uber’s operating model and this is being addressing with the operator.
This wide range of action by TfL is designed to ensure that taxi and private hire passengers can benefit from new technology whilst being assured that the highest safety standards are being maintained.
Leon Daniels, TfL’s Managing Director of Surface Transport, said:
“We welcome developments that make life easier for passengers. As in many other areas of transport and retail services, apps can offer passengers the potential of better and more convenient services, but we must ensure that the highest standards of safety are being met.
“We have carried out the largest compliance operation in our history to ensure that the highest standards are being maintained. More needs to be done. We will consult with the trades to ensure the regulations are kept up-to-date. On the issue of taximeters, the law is unclear and we have taken a provisional view. We will be asking the High Court to provide a binding ruling. This is the sensible approach, and we hope that London’s taxi drivers and private hire drivers and operators will work with us to bring clarity on this issue.
EDITORIAL COMMENT:
Irrespective of the court’s judgement, it’s unlikely to appease London’s Taxi drivers and their representative orgs, who clearly feel it’s one rule for them in terms of confirming to acquire the necessary license to run a Taxi, and another rule for the likes of Uber.
Last night after hearing the news that TfL were taking the issue to court, the consensus of opinion of many Taxi drivers was that if there were no threat by the trade to bring London to gridlock, TfL would not be going to court.
The planned Demonstration on the 11th June is not about Uber, but the escalating drop in standards and complete incompetence by this licensing authority.

Uber taxis face legal battles from London black-cab drivers

London Taxi Drivers Association taking action against minicabs that use app as fare meter, which it says is illegal

A queue of London taxis.

London’s black-taxi drivers say Uber’s metering system for minicabs is illegal. Photograph: Tony C French/Getty Images

London’s black-cab drivers are to launch private prosecutions against minicab drivers who use Uber, the booking software that allows smartphone users to hail private-hire cars from any location.

The legal action emerged a day after Travis Kalanick, Uber’s chief executive, confirmed the Silicon Valley company, which has rolled out its service to 115 cities globally, was set for a “record breaking” private fundraising that could see it valued at close to $17bn (£10bn).

The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association is issuing summonses to six Uber drivers on Thursdayon the grounds that it is illegal for private-hire vehicles to be fitted with meters.

The test cases hinge on whether the app comes within the definition of a meter and could affect hundreds of Uber drivers operating in the capital and Manchester, where it launched this month.

The London cabbies’ union is so concerned about Uber that it is planning a mass protest on 11 June with drivers parking in Parliament Square, Trafalgar Square and along Whitehall in central London from 2pm.

Transport for London, which regulates private-hire vehicles, has said the law is “unclear”. On Thursday, it said it would seek a “binding” decision from the high court.

Steve McNamara, LTDA’s general secretary, , said a decision from the high court would be unlikely before the end of the year and described the move as a stalling tactic designed to prevent his union from calling a judicial review. “It is crystal clear Uber are breaching the Private Hire Act,” he said.

The act defines a meter as “a device for calculating the fare to be charged in respect of any journey by reference to the distance travelled or time elapsed since the start of the journey”.

Licensed drivers in cities across Europe and America are protesting at the new wave of taxi-hailing services, which licensed drivers argue endanger passengers and threaten cabbies’ ability to make a living.

Last week, the offices of British startup Hailo, which was set up by three London cab drivers, were vandalised after the company extended its smartphone booking service from black cabs to private-hire vehicles.

In Paris, major roads have been gridlocked by protests and an Uber car was attacked, while the government is looking at ways to outlaw the new wave of cab booking services. There have been demonstrations and legal action in Brussels, Toronto, Berlin and New York.

Despite the opposition, Jo Bertram, UK general manager of Uber, insisted: “I don’t think we’re wiping out anyone, we’re increasing the size of the market.”

She said the technology could mean lower fares and increase consumer confidence: “It’s opening up private hire to people who wouldn’t use it before.” Bertram said existing regulations did not reflect the change in technology, with minicab offices being “the analogue equivalent” of Uber, and added that Uber would welcome the High Court’s scrutiny: “The laws were written prior to smartphones and Google maps, for public safety.”

However, she said that the technology would make passengers safer than ever, as the app gave passengers details of drivers and stored journey records.

Searches for taxis made by users of the Uber app are analysed in the US head offices, while data of journeys has been shared with police in the UK.

Bertram would not disclose whether Uber pays taxes on fare earnings in the UK, although she said it paid all taxes it was liable for. Passengers are charged through a third-party payment system based in Holland. “We keep our financials extremely confidential.”

However, she said drivers’ records would be “very traceable” compared to any cash-in-hand earnings in other minicabs.

The Uber smartphone app shows the user a map, with the location of nearby cars looking for passengers. The customer can order the car and pay the fare from their phone, and Uber uses GPS tracking of the driver’s smartphone (issued by Uber for a £150 deposit) to measure the time and distance travelled by cabs.

For London’s 65,000 private-hire vehicles, the app saves money by reducing the number of journeys they make in search of passengers – for example by ensuring drivers can drive to and from an airport with a fare either way. In return, Uber takes a cut of the fare, typically 20%. The LTDA says measuring time and distance travelled constitutes metering and that only black cabs are licensed to use meters. Customers of private-hire vehicles have to agree the price before the journey based on standard charges.

In a statement, TfL said: “On the issue of taxi meters, the law is unclear and we have taken a provisional view. We will be asking the high court to provide a binding ruling. This is the sensible approach, and we hope that London’s taxi drivers and private-hire drivers and operators will work with us to bring clarity on this issue.”

After his London office wall was graffitied with the word “scabs”, Hailo founder Ron Zeghibe published an open letter on the company’s website urging drivers to accept the upheavals in their industry. Zeghibe said: “The worst thing the taxi industry could do now is deny that things are changing and hold on to the past. Complaining is not a strategy.”

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