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London's High Court rules that Uber's smartphone app is technically not a taximeter
Uber’s tally for the week is now two for three.
Following some troubling news out of China and more positive news from India, the ride-hailing company was handed a major victory in the UK today when London’s High Court ruled that Uber does not break the law.
The hearing was initiated earlier this month when Transport for London (TfL), the city’s transportation regulatory body, asked a judge in the court to decide whether Uber’s app (or perhaps the driver’s smartphone running the app) should be formally considered a “taximeter,” the electronic device ordinary taxis use to calculate passenger fares.
Thankfully for Uber, the judge in the case, Justice Ouseley, ruled that the smartphone with the app installed did not make it a taximeter. It’s worth noting that the reasoning Ouseley used to arrive at this conclusion seems to devolve to hairsplitting, and could easily have gone the other way.
From the press release issued today by TfL:
Mr Justice Ouseley said that whilst the smartphone with the driver's app may be essential to enabling the calculation of fares to take place, that did not make it a device "for" calculating fares in breach of the taximeter prohibition. He also found that it was drivers, not their vehicles, who are "equipped" with smartphones.
In any case, Uber is glowing today, calling the ruling “great news” and “a victory for common sense.” The company also used the spotlight as an opportunity to announce its launch in Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland and the third largest in the UK.
It’s been a rocky ride for Uber in the UK for at least a year, as licensed taxi drivers have gathered to vehemently oppose what they see as Uber’s regulation-free ride. Last summer, thousands of cab drivers in several cities across Europe--including London, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Milan, and Lisbon--organized traffic jams to protest Uber’s expansion into Europe.
And even with this new victory in the UK, Uber’s fight isn’t over. The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) blasted the ruling as "unbelievable" and has already lodged an appeal to the Supreme Court.
This is at least the second regulatory victory for Uber internationally this week. On Tuesday, India’s Ministry of Transport issued new guidelines for ride-hailing services, including Uber and Bangalore-based Ola Cabs, while explicitly stating that they would not not be regulated as traditional taxi companies--similar to today’s ruling in London.
Meanwhile, in China, new rules proposed by the Ministry of Transport could spell trouble for Uber while giving the upper hand to locally-based companies. The proposed rules would not only require cars to be registered as taxi services, but would also make sure that providers have their servers in China. Facing these and other regulations, Uber will have its work cut out as it faces off against its primary rival there, Didi Kuaidi, which has raised several billion dollars this year alone.
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Uber is a ridesharing service headquartered in San Francisco, United States, which operates in multiple international cities. The company uses a smartphone application to arrange rides between riders and drivers.