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