Taxi Wars

Since it’s launch in 2011, Uber has gone from strength to strength. Starting in San Francisco, the company has begun impressive world domination and is now available in 300 cities, in 58 different countries worldwide, with the company being valued in the region of $50bn.

As Uber continues to grow in popularity with its ever-expanding client base, it also began disputes with both governments and taxi companies alike. The government has actually banned Uber in Berlin, although it remains active in other German cities and they have also been the subject of protests in London, Paris and Madrid, to name a few.

Opposition to the app claim that the company operates illegally and that by not paying taxes and licensing fees, it creates unfair competition at the expense of passenger safety.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not an advocate of tax evasion and I’m not familiar with the intrinsic details on that side, but on the surface (and from an Uber clients perspective), it appears that a new and exciting company is using technological advances to break a monopoly held by the iconic black cabs. Now we’re all aware of the time and effort involved with cabbies learning ‘the knowledge’, but surely the increased availability, accuracy and affordability of GPS systems should have rang alarm bells with someone somewhere? In a market dominated by an extortionately priced product, the opportunity for someone to undercut and take over has been there for a while. If anything, I’m surprised nobody jumped on it sooner.

Today the High Court has ruled that Uber is not breaking the law, as the app used by drivers is fundamentally different to the traditional taximeter. Amongst other things, the London Taxi Driver Association (LTDA) was trying to impose a minimum 5 minute wait to call a car, which is fairly hypocritical considering they launched a rival app (Hailo) which, for some reason (*cough* price *cough), isn’t as popular as Uber.

By now it’s probably glaringly obvious that I’m an Uber fan, but, unlike most, I’ve spent a disproportionate amount of time weighing up the various pros and cons. It does upset me that I’m paying money to an American based company over a UK based one and, being in love with London as I am, the disappearance of the iconic black cab would not sit easy with me. But then I see my email inbox and remember that, in the small hours of this morning, my taxi ride home cost me £5.58 instead of the usual £15–20 it costs in a black cab!! Should there be a small difference I would undoubtedly stay loyal to the British owned firms, but with such a significant price difference I’m resigned to the fact that there is a price on my loyalty…. and it runs in the region of 66% discount! It’s also hard to get too disgruntled about companies not paying tax in the UK when there’s a Starbucks on every corner.