Transport for London have been asked to publish legal advice they claim clears mini cab firm Uber’s use of an app to charge passengers.
The Google-backed car service uses a smartphone app and GPS technology to calculate the fares passengers must pay.
London’s black cab trade says the app breaches laws forbidding minicabs from fitting taximeters in their vehicles.
Transport for London, which regulates both Taxis and minicabs, says its lawyers believe the app is legal but has asked the High Court to make a final ruling because some aspects of the law are “unclear”.
In the meantime TfL has granted Uber a licence to operate in the capital, angering many Taxi drivers who believe the decision undermines their trade and rewards what they see as illegal behaviour.
Appearing before the London Assembly’s transport committee last month, TfL boss Sir Peter Hendy said he wanted the High Court provide a definitive ruling on whether the firm’s billing app was legal and insisted the organisation would enforce any ruling banning it.
However he warned that Uber and its competitors could easily sidestep any court ruling by using apps on a customer’s smartphone to determine the cost of their journey.
Sir Peter’s appearance coincided with the publication of TfL’s response to a wide-ranging report by the committee which detailed a number of concerns and failures in TfL’s relationship with the Taxi and private hire trades.
Although the committee has welcomed a commitment to address many of those issues, chair Caroline Pidgeon says members continue to be “deeply concerned” about the level of resources available to enforce Taxi and private hire laws.
She adds the committee was also “concerned” at Sir Peter’s suggestion that some Met Borough Commanders “do not view enforcement against touts as a priority” and said colleagues on the Assembly’s police and crime committee would pick up the issue.
Sir Peter has also been asked to set out what steps he’ll take to address evidence from both TfL and the Met “that police officers are not familiar enough with existing legislation to carry out enforcement activity properly.”
Ms Pidgeon’s letter also asks for all legal advice on the issue of the Uber app’s legality to be released to the committee so that there can be greater understanding and transparency around TfL’s decision to licence the firm.
She closes by saying: “The committee remains united in its position that taxi and private hire services are a vital part of London’s transport network and that more can and should be done to tackle the issues highlighted in our investigation.”