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New taxi 'app' service faces High Court challenge

A new taxi service operating via a mobile phone app in London is facing a legal challenge in the UK High Court after licenced taxi drivers complained that the app infringes on their lawful trade, reports the BBC.

The new service operated by Uber runs in 100 countries around the world, and works by matching a nearby taxi driver to a fare. The app allows customers to compare the fares of nearby drivers in order to get the best deal.

It has faced stiff criticism from London's black cab drivers, who believe that because the app has a second layer which calculates fares based on distance it essentially amounts to a taximeter, something which private vehicles are not allowed to use.

The app threatens the grip on the market currently enjoyed by London's famous black cabs, and their professional body, the London Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) is coordinating the legal challenge against it.

High Court challenge

Now London's transport authority is asking the High Court to adjudicate on the matter, to give the industry a legally binding ruling in a bid to putting an end to the dispute and providing clarity over the use of apps in the taxi business.

Transport for London (TfL) believes the Uber app does not break the law; however, it believes that because of the 'level of concern within the trade' a High Court decision is needed to settle the matter.

TfL's opinion is that the way the app works means it remains within the law, because there is no physical connection between the device and the vehicle, something that is required for a traditional taximeter.

However, TfL accepts that the pace of change in the technology sector and the development of apps in this area does mean that the law may need revisiting and for this they require the help of the High Court.

Leon Daniels is TfL's managing director of surface transport.

"We will be asking the High Court to provide a binding ruling," he told the BBC.

Strike

However, the LTDA is left unsatisfied by TfL's position, and is planning to conduct a protest demonstration on 11 June in London to highlight the issue to the wider public.

The LTDA says the demonstration will be designed to cause 'severe' congestion throughout central London and to create 'traffic chaos' for those using London's roads.

The LTDA general secretary Steve McNamara told the BBC that the group would also be issuing its own legal challenge.

"The taxi trade have no confidence in TfL and its legal team whatsoever and we will be issuing proceedings of our own," he said.

Uber on the other hand is welcoming the TfL decision to seek a legal opinion.