Uber becomes richer and richer. According to regular media reports, the chauffeur service is on the verge of completing a further financing round where one billion US dollars is to be collected from investors. The company is aiming to make the ascent to the exquisite club of companies that are assessed with more than 10 billion dollars. Not least by such cash injections, Uber is able to expand its services in major cities all around the world. With the launch in Beijing, it has recently conquered the 100th city.
Not only because of the seemingly endless financial possibilities, Uber enters into massive competition with the existing taxi business in most of these cities. Especially where existing regulations are violated, for example by assigning trips orders to private persons, the protest from within the ranks of the taxi drivers increases.
Now, protest events are scheduled to take place in several European cities at the same time. The influential London Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) is planning a mega-demonstration in London, blocking the entire city center with black cabs. LTDA’s General Secretary Steve McNamara is planning a 10.000 cab protest for June 11, crippling London’s traffic. That would mean almost half the taxi fleet in London (22.500 in total) is out demonstrating. And it’s not the first time LTDA has taken to the streets. Only a few weeks ago, hundreds of taxis protested at one of London’s newest highrises, The Shard, against a lack of taxi ranks in the area.
LTDA’s protest is not aimed at Uber directly but at the London regulator Transport for London (TfL), who refuses to take action against the ‘illegal’ activities of the IT startup. McNamara accuses the regulator to have “given in to the Americans” and created “a Hailo for minicabs.”
LTDA’s main beef with its regulator is that, although Uber aims its activities at private hire operators (minicabs) and claims to operate as a minicab operation, the drivers are not affiliated to an operator or an office and that in its app it is using a type of (uncalibrated) taximeter to calculate the fare. TfL counters “that the taximeter is not connected to the vehicle”, so there is no breach in regulation. LTDA prepares a Judicial Review against the regulator and private actions against Uber-drivers.
Also on 11th of June, the Parisian taxi drivers want to go on the street. Paris and London are considered to be the initiators of the international protest demonstrations, whereas in Paris the initiative comes more from the drivers and is propagated via the social networks. Via Facebook and Co., the taxi drivers and organizations in other cities have now announced to participate as well. If we believe the announcements made, then taxi drivers in Milan, Hamburg and Cologne will also protest on 11th of June.
Berlin will certainly be involved, too. Here, four different taxi associations are organising a large demonstration. 1,000 vehicles are expected which is about one-sixth of all Berlin taxis. Just like in Paris and London, here too the regulator will be urged to act against any law-infringements by Uber or other similar trip providers in order to assure fair competition.