Sharing Economy

Uber is legal in London: High Court

Anmar Frangoul | Special to

Ride hailing-app Uber is legal in London, according to a High Court ruling that will spark further hostilities between the taxi app and the capital's black cab drivers.

In a High Court ruling Friday Mr Justice Ouseley ruled that the company's private hire vehicles are not "equipped with a taximeter" and are therefore not illegal.

A taximeter is used by London's famous black cabs to calculate passenger fares at the end of a trip. Only drivers who have undergone thorough training are allowed to use one in their vehicles.

A user scans for an available vehicle using the Uber's app on a smartphone in London.
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An Uber driver's smartphone sends GPS data to Uber servers in the U.S., which calculate the fare using an algorithm. The Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association (LTDA) had contended that Uber vehicles used taximeters and were therefore breaking the law.

The case was brought to court in order to put a line under the issue and gain clarification one way or the other.

In his written judgement Ouseley concluded that, "A taximeter, for the purposes of Section 11 of the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998, is not a device which receives GPS signals in the course of a journey, and forwards GPS data to a server located outside of the vehicle, which calculates a fare that is partially or wholly determined by reference to distance travelled and time taken, and sends the fare information back to the device."

Transport for London said that it welcomed the legal clarity on the issue. In a statement, TfL added that its view had always been that, "smartphones are not taximeters." Uber also welcomed the decision, stating that the ruling was "a victory for common sense."

The LTDA was not pleased, however, and said via Twitter that it had lodged an appeal to the Supreme Court.

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Uber has seen huge growth in London. Its low prices have provoked anger amongst the city's black cab drivers, who have staged several protests on the capital's streets, causing disruption to traffic.

The company is still facing issues in London, however. TfL is proposing what Uber describes as "bureaucratic new regulations" which include an obligatory five minute wait for passengers, even when a car is nearby.