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Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Uber Protests Level Playing Field

[Update at end of post]

The saga of driver and rider matching service Uber, its impact on London’s black cab trade, and the perverse championing of the app by the supposedly free-market libertarian right, has been brought back on to newsdesks around the capital and elsewhere by Transport for London (TfL) putting a series of regulation proposals, to be applicable to all taxi and private hire vehicles and drivers, out to consultation.
The proposals include many items which should not prove controversial, nor which any provider of taxi or private hire vehicles should find problematic - like ensuring all drivers have a grasp of spoken English, their vehicle is properly insured, and that TfL know who is being used to drive the public around the capital. Instead, in a predictable move, Uber’s lobbying muscle has been mobilised to leak the proposals and then play the victim.

Yes, as so often, hard-pressed hacks are being urged to “look over there” by a company that is worth billions, and indeed, which has the odd billion Dollars in cash to play with. Uber employs former US Presidential advisors. The black cab trade, in contrast, is made up of one-man and one-woman bands, all of whom are self-employed, and have invested many years of their lives, and a shed load of cash, in their livelihoods.
Bring on the cheerleaders

The OTT press reaction has been magnificently exemplified by freesheet City AM, which has a front page splash headlined “TFL BOWS TO ANTI-UBER PRESSURE … Popular app could face clampdown as black cab lobby boasts of influence”. Pride of place is given to the obligatory rent-a-quote Uber spinner whining “These bureaucratic new rules will not improve your ride”, which is bullshit-speak of the highest order.

The City AM stance is no surprise, given it is now edited by Uber fan Christian May, who gave the company’s deeply unpleasant CEO Travis Kalanick a soft soap interview at a recent IoD event. But it is not the worst example of Uber grovelling: for that, we have to visit May’s pals, the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, who have reacted as if the End Times were upon us.
How to guarantee an accessible vehicle in London

After splashing a copy of the proposals - which, by themselves, show only that most of the content is uncontroversial - the Fawkes blog has screamedTransport for London are launching a consultation today on proposals to kneecap Uber’s business”, before claiming the blog “understands Number 10 are furious with Boris for allowing the consultation to go ahead and are actively seeking ways of forcing him to back down”.

Given that Bozza now has an MP’s job to do, and was hardly hands-on before that, it’s entirely possible he had little to do with the consultation other than to nod when someone else suggested it. Meanwhile, it is noted that Uber want everyone else to come down to their standard, rather than the industry all play by the same admittedly rigorous, but necessary, rules. And that they are prepared to spin rather than engage constructively.

Regulations are there for a reason. And they are not something to pick and choose.

[UPDATE 1 October 1300 hours: the spin, verging on forthright dishonesty, has continued, with Uber fans at the Guido Fawkes blog claiming "On the pollution point, Uber is planning to go all-electric in the next few years".

No such claim has been made. The Great Guido has his trousers alight once again.

Meanwhile, Uber and its supporters are claiming that over 100,000 have signed the online petition in favour of the driver-and-rider-matching service. However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, the petition can all too easily be faked.

Not only are there many examples of fake names in circulation right now - whether Sillius Soddus or Biggus Dickus have been included is not known - but a short video showing how easy it is to fake signatures is also available.

Not a good result for all that PR expenditure, Uber people, is it?]


Anonymous said...

Uber will continue while ever there is a large pool of car owners who really do believe you can earn a vast sum of money for doing very little. Once drivers realise that, whilst they may be cheaper than a Black cab or even private hire, the fixed costs are very similar so decent wages Are hard to earn they will drop out to be replaced by another gullible individual. This source does dry up as a brand becomes toxic.

They operate in a simialr fashion to how the large driving school chains operated and you don't see many BSM, AA, RAC driving school cars anymore. Their model of renting the car to instructors meant the first 2-3 days of work a week were for the franchise and instructors couldn't do enough hours to earn a living.

jelltex said...

I do not get why the Great Guido is all over this, does he have shares in Uber? Or does Uncle Rope have the shares?

I will continue to use Black cabs when in London, knowing that they are insured, well driven and do not rip me off.

Anonymous said...

I have no idea why you are sticking up for the black cab drivers and their desire to restrict competition.

Uber provides a much better service.

Matt said...

The head of communications of Uber was on Ian Dales LBC show last night. When pressed on the companys tax arrangements and why they were registered in Holland he spun out the same line as Amazon, Google, Starbucks, vodaphone and Jimmy Carr by saying that they paid the amount of tax which was required of them. They don't own the cars, they don't employ anybody, all the drivers are self employed, all their earning are registered abroad for tax purposes, they are earning billions for creating a phone app and using the infrastructure countrys without contributing to it.
Of course it is convenient and cheap but why don't TFL create their own app for registered, regulated black can drivers? There is nothing ingenious about it.

Anonymous said...

As Matt states above, Uber drivers are self employed, they drive their own cars and work the hours they want to work. As an occasional Uber user, I have never found the drivers less than curteous and friendly and the cars comfortable and clean. In talking with the drivers, I have learned that Uber provides the app and navigation and takes 20%, which I understand is the same as mini-cab companies but unlike their mini-cab rivals, Uber provides another fare pickup close the drop off location of previous customer and can thus offer cheaper rates, without the back-to-base fuel wastage of other taxi services. Rather than applaud and match this cheaper, more efficient and arguably greener approach, TfL proposes imposing a 5 minute minimum waiting time, irrespective of the proximity of the pick up vehicle. It is hard to see this as anything other than an anti-competitive and frankly Luddite restriction, that penalises the drivers. If Uber, the company, evades tax, that is a different matter that should be prosecuted accordingly. Again, as Matt suggests, TfL should create their own technology that expedites drop-off and pick-up, while taking advantage of black-cab drivers' unique Knowledge of the road.

Anonymous said...

Oh Christ......"Uber employs former US Presidential advisors."

Criminal alert, then.