Christmas comes early for Uber as burdensome regulations look set to be disregarded

 
Billy Bambrough
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London Black Cab Drivers To Protest Over Uber Taxis
The taxi industry has accused Uber of illegal practices (Source: Getty)

Uber is expected to receive an early Christmas present today as a raft of burdensome regulations that would have effectively shut the firm down in the capital look set to be disregarded after fierce opposition from business groups and consumers.

The final responses to a Transport for London (TfL) consultation on how to better regulate the private car hire industry are in, just as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) today becomes the latest to warn TfL to reconsider its proposals.

The CBI joins lobby groups The Institute of Directors and London First, all arguing tough regulations would harm the capital.

Read more: Uber's new feature means anyone can be a driver

TfL has indicated that any outcome will be guided by majority opinion and it is understood that the bulk of the 15,000 responses reject its most controversial proposals.

Would-be regulations, which include a controversial five minute wait for cars, have been roundly criticised. The CBI’s competitive markets director Tom Thackray said: “We have concerns that many of the proposals could adversely affect innovation and job creation in the industry.”

TfL is expected to announce which rules will be brought in at the end of January or the beginning of February next year. The Competition and Markets Authority and consumer group Which? have also pushed for TfL to abandon plans for tougher regulations.

The consensus among these groups is that Uber and other private hire companies should not be forced to significantly change their business model. However, all have backed improved insurance, safety and customer support regulations.

A TfL spokesperson told City A.M.: “If something has overwhelming public support then we will listen to the responses.”

Some of the last responses came from the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, one of Uber’s fiercest critics, and from Uber itself.

Uber has backed the introduction of English language tests and for insurance certificates to be displayed, while claiming there is no public interest case for the five-minute wait rule, a ban on showing car locations in apps or compulsory seven-day advance booking and a landline for customer support.

The $60bn tech giant has, however, admitted it opposes only around half of the measures in the consultation and either supports or has no strong view on the other half.

Uber has up until now shunned the formal consultation, instead asking its users to sign an online petition against the regulations which last night stood at 205,000.

TfL said it will take the petition into account.

An Uber spokesperson told City A.M.: “Hopefully, we can see off some of the more ridiculous proposals.”

Uber UK manager Jo Bertram said: “It’s clear Londoners overwhelmingly oppose TfL’s proposals.

“The answer is to level the playing field by reducing today’s burdensome black cab regulations,” Bertram added.

The LTDA has been unable to galvanise the 22,000 black cab drivers on London’s streets, with only a small proportion expected to have filed responses to TfL. This is, however, unlikely to be the end of the LTDA’s campaign against Uber operating on London streets.

Steve McNamara, general secretary of the LTDA, said: “We think Uber showing available cars on the app is illegal and we may take further action in due course.”

In October, the High Court found the ride-hailing app isn’t breaking the law by using an app to calculate fares.

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