Taxi and Private Hire smartphone apps in London Letter to all drivers and private hire operators

Latest TFL press release :

This notice provides an update to all taxi and private hire drivers and private hire operators regarding the use of smartphone apps in London. The content of this notice has also been sent directly to all licensed drivers and operators.

The taxi and private hire trades play a vital role in London’s transport system, carrying over half a million passengers around the Capital every day.
I am conscious that the growth in the use of smart phones is changing the way many of us organise our lives, with passengers and drivers
increasingly using apps that serve London’s taxi and private hire market.

While apps offer tremendous potential benefits, TfL as the regulator has a duty to ensure that the way in which they operate complies with the licensing and regulatory framework in London. Over the last few months you will have seen a lot in the media about this, in particular about the Uber app, and I this note explains our current position on the use of smart phone technology.

Taximeters

As you will know, private hire vehicles in London are prohibited from being equipped with taximeters. However, it is not unlawful for a private hire operator to charge its customers on the basis of time taken and distance travelled in respect of journeys. TfL’s view is that smartphones that transmit location information (based on GPS data) between vehicles and operators, have no operational connection with the vehicles, and receive information about fares which are calculated remotely from the vehicle, are not taximeters within the meaning of the legislation (section 11 of the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998).
The main taxi and private hire trade organisations fundamentally disagree with how the law should be applied to the use of smart phones in this way. TfL has no specific vested interest in which interpretation is correct, other than that we would like clarity so we can regulate the industry and enforce effectively where necessary and appropriate.

In order for us to resolve this issue as quickly and fairly as possible, allowing all interested parties to make representations, we consider the most appropriate way forward is to invite the High Court to issue a declaration as to how the law should be applied in this area.

However, we are now aware that the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) has commenced private prosecutions in the Magistrates’ Court against a number of individual drivers who use the Uber app. These cases will delay the resolution of this issue as the High Court cannot be invited to issue a declaration while there are ongoing criminal proceedings. Nor will the private prosecutions provide a definitive legal position on this issue, as the decisions of one Magistrates’ Court are not binding on another.
Rather than resolving this issue quickly and fairly, we believe that the LTDA actions are prolonging the inherent uncertainty on this issue and are unfairly pursuing a small number of licensed private hire drivers which we are of the view is not in the public interest. It would be preferable for the LTDA to withdraw their private prosecutions and work with us to get the issues before the High Court as soon as possible in order to get a definitive resolution.
Record keeping and recording of destination

The Licensed Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA) assert that the regulations relating to record keeping for private hire operators require a destination to be recorded before the commencement of a journey on all occasions.
TfL is of the view that the law as it currently stands only requires operators to record a destination if a passenger specifies one at the time of booking and not otherwise. We do however agree that these regulations are unclear on this point. The power to make the regulations is now vested in TfL. We therefore intend to consult on potential revisions to the regulations to provide clarity and help ensure the highest standards of public safety and customer service are maintained. More details of this consultation will be publicised later this year.

Uber’s operating model

Concerns have been raised regarding the nature of Uber’s business operating model in London. While it is right that TfL takes into account the reasoned views of others as to how the law should be applied, our role as regulator is to reach an independent view of the law, without improper influence, taking into account all relevant considerations.

In April we carried out TfL’s largest ever compliance inspection and at the time of that inspection Uber met all requirements for a private hire operation in relation to record keeping. We have also been in extensive correspondence with Uber to understand precisely how their business model operates in London.
Following this review, we have reached the conclusion that the way Uber operates in London is in accordance with the law as it applies to private hire operators and specifically in the way bookings are accepted and invited. However, TfL is aware of one incidence where it appears that a driver may have carried out private hire bookings for Uber using a vehicle without insurance and that matter is being dealt with appropriately.

Technology continues to advance quickly and we will continue to monitor developments in way that the market develops in London to ensure that operators and drivers remain compliant.

I would like to emphasise that TfL continues to recognise, and defend, the important distinction between the services provided by taxis and private hire vehicles. TfL is therefore continuing to defend the right of taxis to utilise bus lanes in the ongoing litigation including at the European Court of Justice.

Leon Daniels
Managing Director – Surface Transport Transport for London

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TFL update Re: Uber

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Today I spoke to Garrett Emerson regarding TfL`s position with Uber and now the deadline that they had been given by TfL to comply had passed, what was the outcome, and had TFL indeed suspended Uber from operating?

Garrett Emmerson informed me that Uber had emailed TfL some 5 minutes to midnight on their deadline and had changed some of their terms and conditions that effect the relationship between Uber BV ( in Holland ) and their passengers in London.
At this point in time, TfL are still not 100% happy with this and said that although Uber are not far off complying fully with what they want and have asked them for some more information, they ( Uber ) will still be allowed to operate in London.

I mentioned the issue of the use of a meter in Uber`s vehicles and he said that this was an issue for the High Court to decide and that the LTDA had a case going before the courts on this matter.

I passed this information over to Steve Mc at the LTDA and he agreed with me 100% that in the next few days the date of the 2nd Demonstration will be announced to the Trade.

Also, TfL are in the process of taking an Uber driver to Court for not having no Insurance.

This news from TfL just reinforces our opinion that TFL are our Licensing Authority
without any Authority.
I look forward to seeing you back on the streets.

Grant Davis

London Assembly announces new investigation into taxis and mini cabs

Passengers are being invited to share their views on the service provided by taxi and mini cabs to help inform a new London Assembly investigation.

Assembly Members on the transport committee have announced a six-month investigation into passenger expectations of both trades, including the ease of booking a cab, fare levels and the accessibility of vehicles.

They will also examine whether Transport for London’s regulation of the trades is delivering the services users want and explore whether improvements need to be made.

Passengers, drivers and user & trade groups are being invited to help shape the investigation by sharing their views and comments with the committee.

Interested parties have until the end of September to submit detailed views, but AMs are asking for initial thoughts to be sent by June 30th so that they can inform a public meeting on July 9th.

At that meeting the committee will question user groups about passenger concerns.

A second meeting in September will hear from representatives of the taxi and mini cab trades and from Transport for London officials and representatives of the Mayor.

Questions to these groups will be based on the evidence heard at the July 9th meeting.

Announcing the investigation Caroline Pidgeon AM, Chair of the Transport Committee, said: “Black cabs are as synonymous with London as Tower Bridge and Big Ben. Alongside Private Hire vehicles they play an important role in providing a service to Londoners and visitors to our capital, particularly for those who don’t own their own car, have mobility impairments or work unsocial hours.

”Our investigation will focus on how both sectors can improve on all aspects of passenger service, including the vital issue of safety.

“We will want to see how the Mayor and Transport for London are responding to this changing environment and how they can improve their regulation of and services to the industries.”

Submissions should address the following three questions:

  • What are passengers’ views about taxi and private hire services in London including about the availability at different times and locations, safety and cost of these services?
  • How well are the Mayor, TfL and the taxi and private hire industries responding to passenger issues?
  • What more could the Mayor, TfL and the taxi and private hire industries be doing to improve taxi and private hire services in London?

and can be sent to:

London Assembly Transport Committee
City Hall
The Queen’s Walk
London SE1 2AA

or via email to: transportcommittee@london.gov.uk

Hailo statement take 3…

Over the past week or so there has been much discussion amongst drivers about Hailo’s application for a Private Hire licence. There has been some misinformation and even scaremongering. We’d like to take the opportunity to dispel the myths and set the record straight. We have spoken to literally hundreds of drivers personally and will continue the dialogue to get feedback and prevent people from getting the wrong end of the stick. Meanwhile, here are some answers to common questions:

Why we’re doing this

Today, passengers have a number of apps on their phone to get them a vehicle. If they choose a taxi but can’t get one on Hailo, it is a fact that they will open other apps that don’t offer taxis to get a car. That passenger may then be lost to the trade forever. By giving people a secondary option for a private hire car we are keeping that passenger on an app where taxis are the first choice.

When are we doing this

All that has happened so far is that Hailo has applied for a Private Hire Operators licence. It has not yet (as at May 28th) been issued by Transport for London. No launch date has been fixed.

Is Hailo going to be private hire only?

Of course not. We stress that taxis will continue to be front and centre of Hailo’s offering and the default option for the passenger.

What type of vehicles are you planning?

These are early days and our next task is to provide executive cars that corporate accounts have said they need in order to use taxis in their businesses, thus getting more of the corporate work that cab drivers have always told us they want.

Going forward, whilst taxis will be the first thing people see when they open up the app, we may offer a broader choice of vehicles as passengers and businesses require so that they keep using Hailo and thus have a smartphone app that has taxis as the first choice. More people using the app means more work for taxis.

How big will the fleet be and who will be driving these cars?

We are still finalising the details and will share them closer to launch, but taking some of your ideas on board already, if possible we would like to involve licensed taxi drivers – be they Knowledge students, existing drivers or ex-drivers.

Will this mean taxis get more corporate work?

Yes. Hailo is actively trying to win corporate business back to black cabs and we launched the Hailo for Business service recently to develop this faster. Corporate accounts want executive-class cars as part of their requirements – and winning business is much harder if we don’t provide this service – as radio circuits have shown.

Will Hailo send people who ask for a taxi a private hire instead?

No, if passengers request a taxi they will get a taxi. If there are no taxis available, then passengers can choose to look for another option.

Will Hailo be giving all the best/longer jobs to private hire?

No. Unlike the radio circuits, it will always be the passenger’s choice. If people ask for a taxi, they’ll get a taxi.

How is this affecting Hailo?

The data shows that Hailo continues to provide a very strong service and the overwhelming majority of drivers continue to take Hailo jobs as always. There is no doubt that some drivers have expressed their concerns about the move, and we respect this, but many realise that a stronger Hailo means more work for them and the taxi industry.

TfL to invite High Court to rule on taximeters

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Transport for London (TfL), which regulates and licenses the taxi and private hire trades in the capital in the interests of passengers, is to invite the High Court to rule on whether smart phones that use GPS technology to measure the time and distance of a journey and then receive information about fares comply with current law on ‘taximeters’, which can only be used in London by taxis.

The rapid pace at which smart phone based technology has been developing in recent years has led to a need for clarity about what is required in order for apps to comply with the regulatory framework in London and to ensure there is a level playing field for all operators.

TfL has listened to the taxi and private hire trades, sought to address the concerns raised, and is taking the following action:

· To avoid any future ambiguity, TfL will hold a consultation with the trades on what amendments may be necessary to the regulations on recording particulars of private hire bookings, including journey destinations, to keep them clear and relevant in a changing world and to promote public safety.

· TfL set out its provisional view that smart phones used by private hire drivers – which act as GPS tracking devices to measure journey distances and time taken, and relays information so that fares can be calculated remotely from the vehicle – do not constitute the equipping of a vehicle with a ‘taximeter’.

· However, given the level of concern among the trade, and the fact that some of the legislation in this area is unclear and able to be interpreted in various ways, TfL is to invite the High Court to give a binding determination on this issue.

· TfL has carried out its largest ever compliance investigation – scrutinising Uber’s record keeping and business model. TfL has found that Uber meets the current requirements on record keeping, including in relation to ensuring its drivers hold the relevant licenses and insurance. TfL remains concerned about certain technical aspects of Uber’s operating model and this is being addressing with the operator.

This wide range of action by TfL is designed to ensure that taxi and private hire passengers can benefit from new technology whilst being assured that the highest safety standards are being maintained.

Leon Daniels, TfL’s Managing Director of Surface Transport, said: “We welcome developments that make life easier for passengers. As in many other areas of transport and retail services, apps can offer passengers the potential of better and more convenient services, but we must ensure that the highest standards of safety are being met.

“We have carried out the largest compliance operation in our history to ensure that the highest standards are being maintained. More needs to be done. We will consult with the trades to ensure the regulations are kept up-to-date. On the issue of taximeters, the law is unclear and we have taken a provisional view. We will be asking the High Court to provide a binding ruling. This is the sensible approach, and we hope that London’s taxi drivers and private hire drivers and operators will work with us to bring clarity on this issue

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Update from Hailo Chairman

I wanted to follow up on my note from Monday to respond to some of the feedback we’ve received, to clarify some areas where there have been some questions and concerns – and to personally apologise if any of my comments came across as anything but sincere and genuine.

Understandably, there have been some strong opinions expressed about my message, though I’m sure all drivers would agree that personal abuse aimed at Hailo’s founder taxi drivers, or any Hailo drivers, is never the right thing to do. Just as importantly in this instance, it’s simply not right – Terry, Russ and Gary don’t sit in a room on their own making every decision. Hailo is now a sizeable company with a large management team and over 200 employees worldwide.

No-one at Hailo believed our decision to expand our customer offering into PH would be anything less than controversial and difficult. We know when we started three years ago that we said that Hailo would be Black Cab only. Unfortunately, the market reality is that things are changing rapidly and we sincerely believe that we have to change with them. It was never our plan but it has become a necessity.

Hailo For Business – Although it was not our ambition to build our business on the back of large corporate accounts, the reality is that the longer jobs and off peak work are heavily supplied by these types of customers. It has become clear that to win and service this work, we must have a service offering which runs beyond just black taxis and includes executive cars and a host of new product features. We have already signed up hundreds of accounts for Hailo for Business in London, and have ongoing discussions with other large potential clients.

UBER – In November, Uber began to aggressively expand UberX in London. You may have seen many more unmarked Toyotas, BMWs and even Mercedes around town lately using Uber’s hailing app to directly compete with street hail work traditionally reserved for London’s black cabs. What is happening to taxis around the world, is now happening in London. Hailing App technology can allow anyone to go after street hails.

LYFT – Lyft is unknown, at the moment, in Europe. It is a US car service which allows any unlicensed member of the public to download an app and apply to pick up fares. This may not have seemed relevant in London six months ago, but Lyft has just raised $250m to expand in Europe. Neither Uber’s or Lyft’s business models may appear legal but regulators in London are not even barking, never mind biting.

I appreciate that it is easy to talk the talk versus walk the walk and you must judge us on our actions. But I would ask all of our drivers to consider whether Hailo has helped you to earn more money over the last three years and to please judge our current decision on whether we continue to help you to earn more money in the future. Ultimately the intent behind any promise that we have made, or will make in the future, is always to put black cab drivers first and to help them earn more each day when they go on shift. The decisions that we are now considering are designed to help you earn more money not less and to make sure that ever more people use the Hailo App and so get to choose a taxi, rather than losing customers to alternative services.

Over the last three years we would never claim to be perfect, we have certainly made mistakes, but I hope you can give us some credit for helping you earn more and keeping the London black cab competitive and relevant. I apologise that the information causing this controversy was not given to you directly by Hailo but the leak was beyond our control and we still do not have a license. In the future, we will try to be as transparent as possible about our plans without putting at risk Hailo’s ongoing competitive position.

I would welcome Hailo drivers’ views and promise to read all of them personally, so please use this form to share your thoughts.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Ron Zeghibe, Co-Founder and Chairman

LAW COMMISSION PRESS RELEASE: Regulating taxis and private hire vehicles

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News release: Embargoed until 00:01 hours on Friday 23 May 2014

Reforming the regulation of taxis and private hire vehicles
Taxis and private hire services, which include minicabs, are an essential link in the transport network of England and Wales, with passengers spending in excess of £2.5 billion a year on fares.
But the law that governs how the taxi and private hire trades operate is old, inconsistent and struggling to deal with internet-driven changes in passenger behaviour.

In a report published today, the Law Commission is recommending reforms that would update the law and make it clearer for those working in the taxi and private hire trades and their passengers.

The Commission’s report recognises the value to passenger choice of the two-tier system of private hire vehicles – which must be pre-booked, and taxis – which can use ranks or ply for immediate hire. It makes recommendations to retain and reinforce the distinction.

Passenger safety is at the forefront of the Commission’s reforms. It is recommending that standards be set nationally for public safety, accessibility and environmental impact. For the first time, passengers of taxis and private hire vehicles could confidently expect consistent levels of safety and quality wherever they travel. Under the reforms:
· all private hire vehicles, including stretch limos and other “novelty” vehicles, would be subject to the same standards, wherever they operate
· taxis would be subject to a comparable set of standards, which could be added to locally, allowing licensing authorities to choose to set higher standards where they want to, and
· local licensing authorities would have the power to inspect and, if necessary suspend, any vehicles working within their areas, wherever they are licensed.

These reforms would not impact on the famous black cabs in London, where standards of safety and accessibility are already high. But pedicabs in the capital will fall within taxi licensing for the first time, allowing Transport for London to set appropriate standards. Cars used for weddings and funerals, however, will continue to be exempt from regulation.

Among the measures designed to improve the accessibility of services for disabled people, the Commission is recommending a national requirement for taxi and private hire drivers to take disability awareness training. And local licensing authorities would be able to impose a duty on taxis to stop when they are hailed, bringing to an end the unacceptable practice of drivers passing by disabled people.

There would be stiffer penalties, too, for touting (actively soliciting customers), which poses a significant safety risk. Under the Commission’s reforms, licensing authorities would be given the power to impound any vehicles used in connection with touting.

Passengers are increasingly turning to the internet to book their taxi and private hire services. In a move to help the private hire trade respond, the Law Commission is recommending that operators should no longer be barred from accepting bookings or using drivers and vehicles from outside their licensing areas.

Licensing authorities should be able to continue to limit taxi numbers, provided they conduct a regular review of the service being provided. Restrictions on the numbers of taxis in some areas have led to inflated “plate values”. To protect the investment of existing drivers, the Commission recommends that the trade in licences should be allowed to continue. But, in areas where quantity restrictions are introduced for the first time, licenses should not be tradeable.

Nicholas Paines QC, the Law Commissioner leading on the project, says:
“The taxi and private hire trades are of enormous value to England and Wales. They provide a living for thousands of operators and drivers, and many more thousands of people depend on them to go about their daily lives.

“The reforms we are recommending will clarify the legal distinction between taxis and private hire services, and retain the valuable qualities of both. They will equip operators, drivers and their vehicles to meet the demands of a modern passenger-service trade, while making passenger safety and accessibility paramount.”

Click on the links below for the full reports.

Law commission report summary:

http://lawcommission.justice.gov.uk/docs/lc347_taxi-and-private-hire-services_summary.pdf

Full law commission report Taxi and Private Hire Services :

http://lawcommission.justice.gov.uk/docs/lc347_taxi-and-private-hire-services.pdf

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