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Prospective protests in London are growing pains for Uber. Ultimately, if London consumers value the service, then laws, business models and bruised feelings will come around.
Next month, about 10,000 of London’s professional taxi drivers plan to protest what they say is the transportation authority’s unfair treatment of chauffeurs who use Uber Technologies Inc.’s app.
The drivers will meet at a yet-to-be-named landmark in London in early June, said Steve McNamara, the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association’s general secretary. Uber’s drivers are allowed to carry passengers without following the same rules as other services, giving them an unfair advantage, McNamara said.
“All we’re saying is if you want to come to London and operate the business model you’re operating, you should operate within our laws,” McNamara said in an interview. “This is about a good old British sense of fair play. It’s not cricket.”
Uber said it holds the necessary license for private hire and adheres to all of Transport for London’s regulations. A TfL spokesman said that while it’s investigating Uber’s operating model, “we have seen no evidence to suggest” that Uber isn’t fit to hold a license.
“Uber is pro rider and pro driver — we are all about keeping London moving with our innovative app at great prices,” an Uber spokeswoman said.
The controversial app has met with protests in several markets from the taxi industry, whose drivers often pay steep fees for licenses and permits and complain that Uber cars are given an unfair advantage.
Cars in Brussels that use the app will be subject to a 10,000-euro ($13,863) fine after a local court ruled against Uber cars last month. European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes called the ban “crazy” and anti competitive.
In Berlin, the taxi association said that Uber hurt competition by violating rules that force limousine drivers to return to a base after delivering customers.
French President Francois Hollande attempted to impose a 15-minute pickup delay on Uber and other private car services, which was struck down in February by the constitutional court. Parisian drivers blocked traffic from airports that month to protest private car services like Uber, which aren’t required to purchase the more than 200,000-euro taxi permit.
“For me to persuade 10,000 guys to take a day off work shows you the strength of feeling,” said McNamara, whose organization represents almost half of London’s 24,000 cabbies who drive the city’s black taxis. “They’re not a commercial threat to us. It’s a sense of fair play.”
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