The IoD has slammed proposals by Transport for London to crack down on ride-hailing app Uber as “arbitrary, restrictive and inefficient”, and said the way the government responds will be a crucial test of its pro-enterprise and free market credentials
Last month, Transport for London (TfL) set out a range of new proposals which would dramatically hit the ride-hailing app’s way of doing business. These rules would impose a minimum five-minute wait time between when a car is ordered and a journey can begin, bar drivers from working for more than one operator, and block operators from showing nearby available cars on an app.
The IoD says the measures are about more than just a scrap between Uber and its competitors, and argues that the issues involved matter to people outside London too.
“Britain’s politicians have pitched themselves as champions of innovation and cheerleaders for creative disruption. Yet in the face of powerful lobbies, governments and regulators have buckled and reverted to the comfort of naked protectionism,” says a spokesperson for the IoD. “Instead of looking at what consumers want and letting the market fill the gaps, in recent years lawmakers have busied themselves trying to apply rules to companies built on smartphone apps which were drafted before the internet even existed.
“That means making fast-moving and dynamic firms play by the rules of a game which most members of the public know has changed. TfL’s justification for its arcane proposals is weak to say the least and non-existent in most cases. TfL says the mandatory five-minute wait time will ‘reduce the risk of a customer getting into the wrong car’, which is pretty hard to understand since Uber displays not only the registration plate of your car but also the make, model, colour and a photo of the driver. TfL uses the same botched logic to try to justify why providers shouldn’t be able to show the availability of cars on an app.”
The IoD says it wants a level playing field for private-hire travel in London by making it easier for black cabs to compete against Uber – and that includes scrapping ‘the knowledge’, the rigorous test every licensed London taxi driver has to pass.
“TfL needs to recognise that the way people want to travel around the capital has changed dramatically in the past decade. If Uber can offer flexible fares, then taxis should be able to as well. If Uber drivers don’t need to pass ‘the knowledge’, then, in the age of Google Maps, why should cabbies? There is plenty of scope for this to be a diverse sector with different models serving different parts of the market. But these proposals fall far short of what we would expect of a government which claims to support innovation and help consumers.”
Watch: Uber founder Travis Kalanick addresses the IoD Annual Convention