The taxi-booking service Uber has received a boost after the high court ruled that its app was legal in London. Had it lost the case, the company would have been forced to change its service to comply with rules that protect black-cab drivers.
The transport regulator Transport for London (TfL) had brought the case after pressure from the city’s black-cab and minicab drivers, who claimed that the Uber app was being used as a taximeter. The taximeter is a privilege afforded only to black-cab drivers in return for the extensive training they undergo to learn London’s streets.
But Lord Justice Ouseley ruled that Uber’s mobile service did not constitute a taximeter. “A taximeter, for the purposes of section 11 of the Private Hire Vehicles Act 1998 does not include a device that receives GPS signals in the course of a journey, and forwards GPS data to a server located outside of the vehicle, which server calculates a fare that is partially or wholly determined by reference to distance travelled and time taken and sends the fare information back to the device,” his written judgment said.
Ouseley said that while the smartphone with the driver’s app may be essential to enable the calculation of fares, that did not make it a device “for” calculating fares, which would breach the taximeter prohibition.