Boris Johnson on Uber: London mayor thinks Uber app is breaking the law

Lynsey Barber
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Boris Johnson has said he believes the Uber app is breaking the law (Source: Getty)

Boris Johnson has said he believes the Uber app is "systematically" breaking the law, weighing in on the fight between Uber, Transport for London (TfL) and black cab drivers and laying out his position for the first time in detail.

The Mayor of London insisted proposed new rules are not about blocking the app, but wanting to "level the playing field", however, Johnson said he believes the app allows Uber drivers to ply for hire, which is illegal under minicab laws, a position long-argued by London's black cab drivers.

Read more: Uber at risk as Transport for London bows to pressure from taxi drivers and minicab firms

"The reason TfL is consulting on new regulations for minicabs is very simple: we need to uphold the law. At present that law is being systematically broken – or at least circumvented – by the use of the Uber app," said Johnson, writing in his weekly column for the Telegraph.

Johnson said he has been "deluged" by correspondence from "people after my own heart - rampant, frothing, free-market Conservatives" protesting the proposals which were revealed last week.

Johnson claims that it's "nuts to try to ban technology" and a balance needs to be found to let the black cab trade and minicab apps co-exist, but laid responsibility further down the road at the doors of Westminster when it comes to regulating the number of minicabs on the road.

It's estimated the number of minicabs on London's roads already stands at 88,149, nearly 10,000 more than in 2014.

"But until Parliament has the guts to change the law we must uphold the existing and long-standing legal distinctions between black cabs and minicabs," he continued.

Read more: Uber and Transport for London head for high court in taximeter legal battle

"Some of TfL’s proposals are clearly stronger than others; and in general it must be much better to crack down on illegal behaviour than to try to fetter new technology. But the aim is clear. We want competition, we want choice – but if Margaret Thatcher believed in one thing it is that freedom is only possible under the rule of law."

Uber told City A.M. that it fully complies with regulations. “In the UK Uber is fully licensed and regulated and abides by all private hire legislation. Uber’s model has been scrutinised not only by TfL, but by over 25 other regulators and found to be compliant," a spokesperson said.

"These bureaucratic new rules will not improve your ride. They’re designed to address the concerns of black cab drivers, who feel under pressure from increased competition. But the answer is to reduce the onerous regulations cabbies face today - not increase them for everyone else."

Uber and Transport for London will today head to the high court where a final ruling is due to be made on whether the Uber app is considered a taximeter or not. Meters are only allowed to be used by black cabs and are illegal in minicabs.

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