London’s High Court ruled Friday that Uber’s app is not a fare meter and therefore does not break the law, a significant victory for the ride-hailing service facing legal challenges around the globe.
Uber has long argued its GPS-reliant app isn’t the same thing as a “taximeter” that black cabs use to dictate the cost of a journey based on distance and wait time. Only licensed black cab and minicab drivers are permitted to use the meters to calculate fares in Britain’s capital.
San Francisco-based Uber has risen to prominence as people have flocked to its service for hailing a car with a smartphone app. Uber has counted more than 1 million registered users in London since mid-2012. However, the company’s aggressive expansion into the heavily regulated domain of taxis has generated legal challenges and taxi driver protests across the world.
Transport for London, the city’s transportation regulator, brought the case to the High Court in 2014 to ask for clarity. The regulator laid out its own view that Uber’s app was not a taximeter but under pressure from the capital’s taxi drivers decided to refer the decision to the court.
A taximeter and the smartphone app differ significantly, the court ruled. “A taximeter…is not a device which receives GPS signals in the course of a journey, and forwards GPS data to a server located outside of the vehicle, which calculates a fare…and sends the fare information back to the device,” according to the court’s decision.