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News, comment and advice on the UK taxi and private hire trades

Uber launches legal action over new London taxi rules

Posted by admin on August 21st, 2016

Source: CityA.M

Uber has launched legal action against London’s transport regulator over new rules that threaten to limit its business in the capital, City A.M. can exclusively reveal.

The billion-dollar startup is seeking a judicial review to halt the introduction of new rules it claims are too strict.

Transport for London set out new regulations earlier this year after a wide-ranging consultation of the taxi and minicab industry following a long-standing feud between Uber and London’s black cab drivers.

The initial regulation was previously welcomed by Uber, but in recent months the details of the rules have become too onerous, Uber claims. Now, Uber is pursuing legal action over the matter, filing official papers with the courts this week after sending a so-called letter before action to TfL.

TfL said it would defend the legality of the new regulations. “We responded to Uber’s letter and will be robustly defending the legal proceedings brought by them in relation to the changes to private hire regulations,” a TfL spokesperson told City A.M. “These have been introduced to enhance public safety when using private hire services and we are determined to create a vibrant taxi and private hire market with space for all providers to flourish.”

Uber is challenging four of the new rules; requiring written English tests for drivers, having to locate its customer service call centre in London, requiring insurance that covers drivers when they are not working and having to alert TfL of changes to its business model or app.

It last week rallied customers to contact the mayor of London urging him to review the regulation while business leaders and entrepreneurs have also written to Sadiq Khan asking him to rethink the rules, raising concerns that the red tape could stifle innovation and London’s digital economy in the wake of Brexit.

It comes as the mayor promised to make new plans for the future of the taxi and minicab industry in the capital. A spokesperson for the mayor said: “Sadiq has asked his team to produce a comprehensive new strategy that will herald in a new era for the capital’s taxi and private hire trades.

“Further details will be released later this year of a plan that will deliver radical improvements for customers, a boost to safety, support for the taxi trade and further improve the quality of service offered by the private hire trade. There will also be a concerted effort to make London’s taxi fleet the greenest in the world.”

City Hall would not be drawn on whether this would include reviewing the new regulations, agreed under former mayor Boris Johnson. Tom Elvidge, general manager at Uber London, said: “This legal action is very much a last resort. We’re particularly disappointed that, after a lengthy consultation process with Transport for London, the goalposts have moved at the last minute and new rules are now being introduced that will be bad for both drivers and tech companies like Uber.”

London’s cabbies, who believe the new rules do not go far enough, have also backed Uber’s call for a rethink, indicating the black cab trade stood to gain from a more favourable outcome. The head of the London Taxi Drivers Association Steve McNamara on Monday said he was confident Khan would do “what’s right for London”.

Other minicab firms in the capital have backed the new regulation, however. Addison Lee chief executive Andy Boland said: “Having previously backed the proposals it’s hard to understand Uber’s resistance to implementation of these new regulations. The whole industry was fully involved in the consultation and there is a strong belief that they will benefit both passengers and drivers.”

Gett managing director for Europe Remo Gerber called Uber’s U-turn on the regulations “baffling”. “Frankly we’re surprised we’re wasting time on this. We should be focusing on the post Brexit needs of London, not minor operational details,” he said.

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GMB tests Uber ‘self-employed drivers’ claim at London tribunal

Posted by admin on July 24th, 2016

Source: The Register

UK union the GMB has brought two test cases to the Central London Employment Tribunal today to determine if Uber acted unlawfully by not providing its drivers with “basic workers’ rights”, such as holiday pay and a national minimum wage.

This is the first time that Uber’s claim that drivers are self-employed has been tested under UK law. The employment tribunal will also determine another 17 claims brought against the next generation cab firm.

Last year, GMB found that a union member who was an Uber driver received £5.03 an hour for the 234 hours he worked in August. After costs and fees were deducted, his net hourly pay was £1.47 below the national minimum wage. The driver paid £2.65 per hour to Uber.

Justin Bowden, National Secretary at GMB, said: Uber drivers face “very difficult working conditions and with cuts to fares we believe that some of our members are taking home less than the national minimum wage when you take into account the costs of running a car.

“GMB believes this could pose a safety risk to drivers, their passengers and other road users as some drivers are forced into working longer and longer hours in order to make ends meet, at the same time as being unable to take any paid holiday or have an entitlement to rest breaks that other workers have.”

“Uber’s defence is that it is just a technology company, not a taxi company, and that Uber drivers do not work for Uber but instead work for themselves as self-employed business men and women,” said Annie Powell, a lawyer from Leigh Day representing GMB.

“If Uber wishes to operate in this way, and to reap the substantial benefits, then it must acknowledge its responsibilities towards those drivers as workers,” Powell added. According to an International Business Times report cited by GMB, there are more than 30,000 Uber cabbies in London alone.

Uber has been taken to court numerous times before. This case joins a long list of other cases that question the legality behind its business.

The company service has been banned, partially banned or suspended in many countries including: South Korea, Thailand, Germany, Netherland, and cities in India, USA and Australia, over regulatory issues.

We have contacted Uber for comment. Jo Bertram, Regional General Manager, Uber UK, told us: “More than 30,000 people in London drive with our app and this case only involves a very small number. The main reason people choose to partner with Uber is so they can become their own boss, pick their own hours and work completely flexibly.

She claimed “two thirds of new partner drivers joining the Uber platform have been referred by another partner.”

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Two men who jumped out of taxi to avoid paying £10 fare are now SUING the driver

Posted by admin on July 7th, 2016


Two men who deliberately leapt out of a taxi to avoid paying the £10 fare and suffered head injuries are SUING the driver. Joseph Beaumont and Lewis O’Neill, now both 24, jumped from the vehicle as it drove along Deansgate in July 2009. The pair, who were both 17 at the time, suffered head injuries following the accident and are trying to sue taxi driver, David Ferrer.

The case was rejected initially but is now being appealed at London Appeals Court .

Joseph and Lewis’ barrister, Marc Willems QC, admitted that the youths had agreed among themselves not to pay the cabbie his £10 fare and Mr Ferrer was determined to prevent his passengers from ‘making off without payment’. He said three members of the group left the taxi without paying when it reached its destination.

Mr Willems told London Appeals Court that Mr Ferrer then drove off with his three remaining passengers still on board, including Joseph and Lewis. The vehicle’s rear sliding door was still open, and seconds later Joseph and Lewis decided to jump out of the cab.

Joseph ‘miscalculated the risk’ and struck his head on the road after ‘coming out of the vehicle backwards’. Lewis followed his pal also striking the road as Mr Ferrer ‘continued to accelerate away from the corner down Deansgate’. Both men suffered severe head injuries and sued Mr Ferrer for substantial compensation stating he was negligent to drive off at speed to prevent them leaving the taxi.

Lewis’ father, Shaun, said he feared for his son’s life after the incident, saying he needed several operations on his brain. He said: “He was in hospital for months. We weren’t sure he would survive. He had to have several operations on his brain and were told he could have epilepsy and may not even recognise us.” He is still recovering from the crash and still suffers problems.

The Manchester-based taxi driver said he was ‘justifiably aggrieved’ at the youths’ attempt to dodge paying his fare. He said he could never have foreseen that the pair would take the drastic step of jumping from a moving vehicle, his legal team argued.

In July 2014 Mr Justice Kenneth Parker refused to award Joseph and Lewis compensation. He ruled that they had ‘brought about the injury to themselves’ whilst trying to evade paying Mr Ferrer’s fare. A decision on the appeal will be given later this year.

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Hull taxi driver’s CCTV lands ‘sex attack’ liar Claire Carr in jail

Posted by admin on May 22nd, 2016

Source: Hull Daily Mail

A woman has been sent to prison for falsely claiming a taxi driver sexually assaulted her. Claire Emma Carr, 20, from west Hull was jailed for 12 weeks after she admitted lying.

The falsely accused driver today told the Mail he could have “lost everything” if he did not have CCTV in his vehicle – which proved she was telling lies.

The 48-year-old driver picked up Carr from an address in Camelford Close, Bransholme, and took her to her home in Wesley Court, west Hull, on April 13. He said: “It was just a normal job. I asked her where she was going, we didn’t even speak until we got to Freetown Way. Someone had been knocked off their bike and we were saying how bad it was. I dropped her off as normal, she paid me the fare, and that was that.”

The next morning, the taxi driver, who has worked in the city for 25 years, had a knock on his door from a police officer. “It was about 8.30am,” he said. “I asked if I could help him and he said there had been an allegation of a sexual assault against me. I was absolutely mortified.”

The driver told the police officer he had CCTV cameras in his vehicle, which were checked and proved nothing had happened. “She had told police I had made some sexual remarks to her, and that when we got to Fountain Road she said I had tried to put my hands down her trousers,” he said. “She said she screamed and made me stop the car and ran off. Thankfully, the CCTV proved different and showed what really happened.”

The taxi driver, who has asked not to be named, said the CCTV he has inside his vehicle saved his life. “If it wasn’t for my CCTV I could have lost everything,” he said. “I would have lost my job which is my living, I could have lost my house. Thankfully, I have got a rock-solid marriage and my wife knew she was lying, but someone else might not have been so lucky.”

The 48-year-old is now urging other drivers to install CCTV in their vehicles after he purchased the equipment himself. “It saved my life,” he said. “I dread to think what could have happened if I didn’t have this in my vehicle.”

The taxi driver described Carr as “completely normal” when he met her on April 13. “I just don’t know what went through her head,” he said. “I believe she should be named and shamed for what she has done. Her actions undermine actual victims of sexual abuse and assault. “There was no reason for what she did. The stress I have been under has been horrendous.”

Carr pleaded guilty to wasting police time when she appeared at Hull Magistrates’ Court on Monday. She was jailed for 12 weeks.

Detective Chief Inspector Kevin Foster, of Humberside Police’s protecting vulnerable people unit, said: “We actively encourage victims of sexual assault to contact the force so they can be supported by specialist officers. Any allegation of sexual assault is then thoroughly and robustly investigated to ensure offenders are brought to justice.

“However, in cases like this, any false reports of sexual assault will not be tolerate.

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Heathrow car park for Uber (and other PH) drivers after ‘local distress’

Posted by admin on May 14th, 2016

Source: BBC Online

Heathrow is to open a car park for private hire vehicles after local residents said Uber drivers waiting for fares were causing a “nightmare”.

They were “parking in people’s driveways, leaving rubbish in gardens” and “causing a huge amount of local distress”, according to airport chief executive John Holland-Kaye.

Uber said it was “something we have been calling for for many months”. Heathrow already has a car park for black cabs. It said the new dedicated parking area would open next month.

Mr Holland-Kaye said: “Private hire vehicles, Uber and their like, have just expanded phenomenally and started to cause a real issue to our local communities.” Drivers were “trying to get as close as possible to the airport to pick up a ride,” he added.

Earlier this year Uber blocked bookings for drivers in the Surrey village of Stanwell Moor after residents complained of “nightmare” congestion and confrontations.

County councillor Robert Evans said residents were being stopped from parking outside their houses and he had heard reports of drivers urinating in the road as they were waiting for a long time.

Uber said it had changed its technology “back in January” so its “partner-drivers” would no longer receive requests if they were parked in residential streets around Heathrow.

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South Ribble Council accused of failing to check school-run taxi drivers in new child abuse scandal

Posted by admin on April 19th, 2016

Source: Mirror

Children as young as five are alleged to have been targeted in South Ribble, Lancashire. Children as young as five were “sexually exploited” by taxi ­drivers after a local council failed to run background checks, a new report claims.

Drivers in South Ribble, Lancashire, have been accused of violating children while ­carrying out council-funded school runs, according to an interim review of the licensing of hackney carriages and private hire vehicles by South Ribble Council.

The horrifying report – which bears troubling similarities to the Rotherham sex abuse scandal – claims children were being put at risk on their daily commute. It classes the failure of ­authorities to vet 44 of its drivers as particularly severe, since a report into the Rotherham attacks had warned 1,400 victims were picked up by taxis from school and children’s homes.

The report – ordered by the Cabinet after a string of local government failings – details one shocking case involving a five-year-old girl whose family claim she is so disturbed she can no longer socialise with other children.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided the five-year-old victim was too young to give evidence – even though the report noted that “police believed the driver had ­committed the offence”. And for months the accused driver was allowed to keep his taxi licence until a few weeks ago when the girl’s family won a fight to make the council revoke it.

Two licensing officers who allegedly issued licences without checks have now been ­suspended in light of the report, but the victims’ families claim it is not enough.

The aunt of the five-year-old girl said: “My niece has been left totally traumatised. “She’s gone back to wetting herself and sits alone in the ­playground during breaks. “She told her mum this man had touched her inappropriately.

“He was on police bail but he kept his licence and was still driving around until a few weeks ago when the authority finally stepped in and revoked his licence. “It’s an absolute disgrace. “He’s been driving around picking up schoolchildren and all the while the council did nothing.”

In another incident, a 16 year old, who was taken to school as part of a contract with Lancashire County Council, feared she was going to be raped by a driver. “It is claimed he propositioned the “vulnerable” teen but the council failed to revoke his licence.

The report reads: “Driver in case A transported a vulnerable 16-year-old girl as part of a school contract for Lancashire County Council. A complaint was received by the county council that this driver made inappropriate ­sexualised remarks to the girl. “The driver in case B was arrested for a sexual offence against a primary school age girl.

“The CPS decided not to ­proceed with prosecution against the driver because of potential difficulties in such a young ­witness giving evidence. “However, police have been clear that they consider the driver did commit the offence. “It is reasonable to assume the driver poses a safeguarding risk.”

Yet licensing officers tasked with investigating the alleged abuses failed to take action and didn’t interview the drivers “under caution” or take ­statements from the witnesses. Instead, their report states, they appeared to allow the police investigation to “lead their own”.

It also states no “significant data sharing” took place between the Tory-led South Ribble Borough Council and police. And a handwritten note by the 16 year old “expressing fears of being raped by the driver” was present in a paper file but never presented to the General Licensing Committee.

Lawyers brought in to carry out the independent review, said they had spoken to a number of council officers and examined documents. The report also found ­“inadequate appreciation” of the council’s duty to protect children and members of public who use taxis.

In a formal statement, South Ribble Borough Council said: “We are currently investigating a number of issues within the licensing section. “The council takes matters of public safety extremely seriously and we are currently undertaking a full review of all taxi licences, including drivers and vehicles.

“Where issues have been highlighted, these have been rectified without incident. “Two licensing officers are currently suspended subject to ongoing disciplinary proceedings. “We continue to operate a full licensing service in the meantime. “An independent investigation is ongoing and will be published in due course. “We are unable to comment further at this stage.”

South Ribble councillor Matthew Tomlinson, who is also a Lancashire County Councillor and Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Schools, said he was “appalled” by the report.

He said: “If something goes wrong with regard to child safeguarding you should throw the doors open and say, ‘My God, this is terrible’ and ‘We need help,’ but this looks as if the council has tried to bury it for as long as it possibly could. Trying to cover the initial issue is what gets you in a mess.

“We all must look at what’s happened in other places like Rotherham and be vigilant that it’s not happening on our doorstep, but it appears South Ribble has failed in that respect.

“I was only made aware of this interim report at the end of last week from colleagues at South Ribble and, as far as I’m aware, as a County Council we still haven’t officially been told about the difficulties. “I’ve heard everything second-hand.”

Is Rotherham repeating itself? The latest revelations are particularly chilling in light of the widespread sexual abuse that occurred in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, between 1997 and 2013. Then, the local council, police and other authorities effectively covered-up the sexual exploitation of an estimated 1,400 children, mainly by men of Pakistani-Muslim heritage – many of them were taxi drivers.

Local investigations began into alleged abuse in 1999, but reports were lost, stolen, never finished or made public. The Home Affairs Select Committee later slammed the handling of the hundreds of cases of rape, abduction, sex trafficking and torture of young people. Home Secretary Theresa May blamed the failures on “institutionalised political correctness”.

The leader of Rotherham Borough Council, Roger Stone, resigned, as did the council’s Chief Executive, Martin Kimber, and the Director of Children’s Services, Joyce Thacker. Around 25 taxi drivers lost their licences over fears they helped trafficked victims.

Sarah Wilson was 11 when a man raped her in a school playground at night. She was driven across the country to be raped by multiple men. Asked what she thought of police and her social workers, she said:
“Crap, they’re just crap.”

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