Uber and Transport for London face another showdown when they pull up at the high court this week, to settle a long-running dispute over whether the smartphone app breaks the law.
TfL last week revealed proposals for fresh laws which would curb Uber in London. Now, the UK courts will decide on the legality of the Uber app, making a final decision on whether it’s considered a taximeter – a device used by London’s black cabs but which is illegal in other vehicles.
Black cab drivers argue the app’s calculation of fares constitutes metering, and is therefore illegal. TfL believes the app is not considered a meter under current laws and has deferred a final decision on interpreting legislation to the high courts and which is due to begin hearing the case on Monday.
On the same day, London mayor Boris Johnson has spoken out for the first time on where he stands on the divisive issue, saying he believes Uber's app breaks the law.
Read more: Boris thinks Uber's breaking the law
TfL’s surface transport managing director Leon Daniels said ahead of the hearing that “it’s in everyone's interest to bring legal clarity to the issue of taximeters and to review the current regulations that were written well before smartphones were invented.”
Rival Addison Lee claims the ruling could leave thousands of Uber drivers open to fines and a criminal record if the ruling goes against Uber. TfL said it would consider the implications of the verdict when a final ruling was made.
Uber said the outcome of the case “would not affect Uber’s license in London, or its ability to operate here," and it’s understood that technical changes to the way the app works to display fares could be made so it did not fall under taximeter rules.
An Uber spokesperson said: “We believe the Uber app on a partner’s [driver's] phone is not a taximeter, and TfL – the regulator – shares this view. We are looking forward to getting binding clarity on this issue in the high court.”
The case is due to be heard on Monday and Tuesday in London.