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Thursday 23 August 2018

MyTaxi vs Uber - Two Cheeks, Same Arse

Imagine an app that allows you to book a cab in over 50 cities across Europe. An app that brings the driver to you and gives you the option to pay with your pennies or take an entirely cashless journey, with receipts sent straight to your inbox. An app that will keep you out of the cold and rain and into safe, reliable black cabs in London” is what MyTaxi tells the punters. But what of the cabbies who have to deal with the app?
Ah well. As Zelo Street showed recently, some accepted as drivers on MyTaxi include those who have not been properly vetted - not unlike driver and rider matching service Uber. Moreover, the custodians of the app have decided to take a very similar line to that used by Uber when it comes to whistleblowers - throw them off the platform, no ifs, no buts - even if they are doing no more than trying to play by the rules.

So it will come as no surprise that the more MyTaxi’s contract with cabbies comes under scrutiny, the more it looks like a mirror image of that used by Uber. That has serious potential consequences for MyTaxi. And that’s before the question of whether giving cabbies jobs outside their area is an inducement, or even order, to do something that is against the law (the so-called “Stansted Question”).
Remember that Uber appealed against an employment tribunal ruling that their drivers were indeed their drivers - and lost. Some of the conclusions were damning: “The true agreement between the parties was not one in which Uber acted as the drivers’ agent … The reality of the situation was that the drivers were incorporated into the Uber business of providing transportation services”. Then there were the obligations on Uber drivers.

These included “they should be in the relevant territory (here, London), with the app switched on … ‘able and willing to accept assignments’ accept trips offered by Uber; and that they should not cancel trips once accepted (there being potential penalties for doing so)”. All of this applies more or less equally to MyTaxi. But for cabbies, there are regulations that prevent them from accepting a hail outside their area.

Is a MyTaxi job a hail? It has been put to me that if a cabby has the MyTaxi app switched on when out of area - the “Stansted Question” - and MyTaxi offers a job, the cabbie is obliged to accept it. Thus if a MyTaxi job is equivalent to a hail, they are breaking the law, but are in a Catch-22: they accept the job, they are bang to rights in breach of the law; they don’t, they are open to penalties for refusing a job, including being thrown off MyTaxi.
The point is that is that the technology which directs jobs to drivers does not support the company’s operating instructions adequately. There is a simple solution, namely that the software within the app should prevent drivers accepting jobs, unless they are within their license area - in other words, license area geofencing.

Who should carry the can for this? Well, look again at the MyTaxi contract and the Uber appeal ruling: taking those together, it is going to be down to MyTaxi - as it has been for Uber to show jobs are not being accepted directly by drivers.

Hence the increasing view among the cab trade that Uber and MyTaxi are two cheeks of the same arse. Not that they would see it that way, you understand.
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