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Taxi Demonstration Wednesday 11th June 2014: Calling on Boris Johnson to take action against Uber and other rogue booking apps


Unite the union Cab Section is concerned that TfL are continuing to allow Uber to have a private hire operators licence. This is despite Uber being banned from operating in a number of cities across Europe, Canada and the USA.

 Unite believes that Uber is operating illegally, outside of the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 for the reasons set out in the letter to TfL from Unite’s Jim Kelly.

The following letter was sent by Jim Kelly, Chair, London & Eastern Unite Cab Section to TfL calling on the Mayor to take action against Uber.

Re: Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 and the Taximeter Prohibition.

Unite London Cab Section notes the issues you raise in your letter to the trade. We feel that a number of substantial points have been omitted.

  • The Private Hire Operator taking the initial booking (This may or may not be Uber) may not be licensed by LTPH under the 1998 Act. In fact this operator may reside outside either UK or EU jurisdiction. This is clearly illegal and falls outside both the spirit and intent of the Act. Any consequent sub-contracting would not fundamentally change this situation. Also any form of disclaimer would not substantially alter the illegal nature of the operation at the point of the initial booking.
  • The location of the operating centre should be a permanent address in London, in order for TfL staff to ensure meaningful compliance with the Act. Operators should not be allowed to continually change the Operating Centre. This clearly undermines TfLs legal obligation to have immediate access in the case of a complaint and unhindered access to check on the correct legal process are being adhered to on a more regular basis.
  • The requirement for a destination to be given at the time of booking is to ensure customer safety and to allow simple access to all crucial and relevant data in the event of a serious complaint. Unite has had a number of discussions with PCO and thereafter, LTPH, Enforcement Officers where this requirement was clear and unequivocal from those officers. We fail to understand why you have sought to undermine this point.
  • One issue you appear to omit in your letter, in regard to taximeters in the vehicle, is the inability of any passenger to have clear sight of the App. Meters in London licensed taxis have to be positioned where the passenger has sight of the meter. The reasons for this are obvious. The main point being that the passenger has the choice to check the fare at all stages of the journey, can raise any issues concerning the meter fare at any time and can therefore make an informed choice to terminate the journey for any number of obvious reasons. This allows the passenger to have confidence in the process. They can also see the correct rate is being applied at the proper times. The issue with a concealed device such as an App on a phone or tablet is that the passenger may be subject to scams, especially tourists and vulnerable members of the public. The unregulated App may be adjusted to record higher fare rates, or different rates from those quoted, and the customer would have no clear understanding of the methodology.  Cash jobs are particularly vulnerable to abuse by this type of App operation, but credit card and account jobs would also be open to financial corruption at the expense of the passenger. This is clearly undermining the basis of the original Acts intention to exclude any device of this nature from PH Vehicles. The fact that technology has moved on does not negate this very important intention of the Act.

The above four points are substantial issues of safety of the public using PH vehicles and also the issue of leaving passengers using PH vehicles subject to fraud. Both issues have been largely eradicated since the inception of licensed  operators, drivers and vehicles in 1998. Apps clearly undermine the Act. TfL has a duty of care to the travelling public using PH, as well as a legal obligation to reject any application which attempts to undermine the existing tried and tested regulations.

Therefore Unite would hope that you consider the above points before making any decision that would put the travelling public at risk.

Jim Kelly.

Chair, London & Eastern Unite Cab Section.


The Mayor has a duty of care to the travelling public and we believe that he is ignoring the threat to public safety by licensing Uber andUNITE Cab Section Logo potentially other rogue booking apps.


For further information please contact Unite Cab Section’s

Peter Rose on 07903 525 520

Notes to editors:

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.

See also…

TfL invites trades to help shape regulatory framework for taxi and private hire apps


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