Uber takes legal action against new rules in London

LONDON • Uber has launched legal action against new rules in London, such as written English tests for its drivers, in the latest battle between regulators and the car ride app that has faced bans and protests worldwide.

Following months of demonstrations by drivers of the British capital's famous black cabs, public body Transport for London (TfL) launched consultations last year on a raft of proposals to restrict the way private-hire firms operate.

In January, it decided against introducing a five-minute wait time for rides with services such as Uber, which allows customers to book and pay for a taxi on their smartphones, but said that it would bring in measures including compulsory language tests.

In recent months the regulator has provided more details, including that drivers should have English reading and writing skills, that private-hire firms must operate a London call centre and that drivers must have insurance for vehicles even when they are not being used as private-hire cars.

"The goalposts have moved at the last minute and new rules are now being introduced that will be bad for both drivers and tech companies like Uber," said Uber's London general manager Tom Elvidge.

Uber, whose investors include Goldman Sachs and Google, is valued at US$62.5 billion (S$84 billion). It said that it supported drivers being able to speak English but that the proposed tests were too rigorous.

The firm, which opened a call centre in Ireland earlier this year, also opposes being required to set up a London call centre, which TfL says must be in place from Oct 1.

The transport authority said it would defend its proposals in court.

"These have been introduced to enhance public safety when using private-hire services, and we are determined to create a vibrant taxi and private-hire market with space for all providers to flourish," a spokesman said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2016, with the headline 'Uber takes legal action against new rules in London'. Print Edition | Subscribe