With it being rumoured that the Daily Mail has another hit piece on its activities in preparation, the last thing that driver and rider matching service Uber needs right now is for it to be revealed that they have been caught abusing the terms of their license. So today, Zelo Street can reveal that Uber has been, er, caught doing just that. Worse, it looks like they have been breaking the rules on more than one count.
This brings us to the South Coast, and the activities of Uber in Brighton and Hove, where the app (note that the article describes it as a “Taxi App”, not a private hire one) was granted a licence to operate in October 2015. The application was for the standard five year term, but was granted for just twelve months: Uber would “have to show that it will obey the rules and meet the standards set out in the Blue Book”.
There was more: “The Blue Book is the rule book for taxi and private hire drivers and firms licensed by Brighton and Hove City Council … Uber would only be allowed to send Brighton and Hove-registered drivers to pick up customers”. Why is this important? Well, every taxi and private hire vehicle registered in the borough must have CCTV installed.
Councillor Les Wares, who is the Tories’ licensing spokesman, warned “CCTVs in Brighton and Hove registered taxis are sealed and checked and provide a record for the operator, driver, council and police … They provide a higher level of welfare, safeguarding and protection to passengers … In simple terms, if the taxi doesn’t have CCTV installed, think twice before you get in”. Wise advice - but why would he have to issue it?
Ah well. “An Uber driver has been caught on camera saying that the company has been urging out of town drivers to come to Brighton after a boycott by Brighton cabbies, which has reportedly resulted in just one local driver signing up … London cabs did not have CCTV or need to display licence numbers on the outside of the cab”.
How can they get away with that? Uber has correctly claimed “it’s not illegal for drivers licensed in other jurisdictions to carry out trips in the city as long as they are pre-booked and dispatched from the operator’s licence they are registered to”. But the way in which the Uber app works gives the impression that the booking to the registered operator takes place after the booking is accepted and the vehicle is dispatched.
As East London Cars have shown, punters in Brighton might see four Uber vehicles in the immediate area - with only one of those licensed locally. Cars from London are a common sight in the area - and they come, as can be seen, from as far afield as Manchester and Liverpool. A driver wouldn’t travel from Manchester or Liverpool for a day out in Brighton, which suggests this would be deliberate flouting of the rules.
It also gives the lie to the idea that this is all part of the sharing economy. This is just another manifestation of an aggressive corporate marshalling its resources to hurt the competition - while manipulating the rules to enable it to do so.
From the modern-day transportation robber baron who calls his competition “assholes”, this is only to be expected. But there is no reason for it to be encouraged.