Saturday, May 26, 2018

Uber Lose Judicial Review Against TfL’s Voice Contact Requirement.

The High Court decided yesterday, TfLs requirement on Private Hire operators to have a voice contact capability for customers is lawful. 


From 1st October all Private Hire Operators must be contactable by Phone.

 

TfL brought in the requirement back in 2016 to make it easier for passengers to complain or contact the operator in the event of an emergency. 


Hold on a minute didn’t TfL’s Leon Daniels go before a GLA transport committee and say that Uber actually provided the customers with a voice/phone contact ?


Didn’t Leon Daniels give out the phone number in front of a packed gallery of irate taxi drivers?


Was TfL’s  Leon Daniels lying to the GLA transport committee?

 

After the regulation was bought in, Uber took TfL to court and won the case to have the  requirement removed. 


Yesterday,  Transport for London’s appeal was heard in the high court and the original decision made by Mr Justice Mitting was overturned.


The Court of Appeal held that Mr Justice Mitting was wrong to rely on the distinction between an emergency requirement and the voice contact facility, which was not raised in the consultation or suggested as a less burdensome alternative by ULL. 


It accepted TfL's evidence introduced on the appeal that an emergency requirement would not be practicable, would not achieve the same benefits, and would not necessarily be less burdensome. The Court of Appeal also held that, because the emergency requirement would not achieve the same benefits as the voice contact requirement (speed of response and customer comfort outside emergency situations), it was not a less burdensome alternative. 


It rejected ULL's arguments that the benefits outside of emergency situations were negligible.”


Hold on a minute!

Haven’t we been told by the Sunday Times that the Uber app is actually serviced by Uber BV and not Uber LL?


Does that mean that Uber BV can carry on disregarding any or all of TfL’s regulations?


Of course Uber can appeal the JR decision, but it’s highly unlikely, as after stating publicly they are making efforts to conform to regulation and move forward, the last thing they want to do is make enemies in the justice system while their licence appeal is running.

 

Oh what a tangled web they weave....etc.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Dara Khosrowshahi Says Uber Have moved forward...Yet Still Wants Rape Cases Decided Privately


Uber Technologies Inc, recently said it wouldn’t force riders who allege sexual assault by drivers to take their cases to arbitration. Later the same day, the company asked a judge to make a group of women do just that with some of their claims.

Uber is no longer fighting to keep a federal judge from hearing assault and battery claims by nine unidentified women who said they were raped or otherwise assaulted by drivers. But the company still wants the women to pursue separate, individual cases before private arbitrators on allegations that Uber falsely marketed safe rides to users despite refusing to adequately screen drivers.

“They did this purely as a publicity play, knowing full well it didn’t mean anything,” Jeanne Christensen, the women’s attorney, said of Uber’s May 15 announcement that it wouldn’t try to force them to arbitrate the assault and battery claims. “They’re trying to gut the lawsuit by saying instead of one suit we’re going to have nine.”

Tony West, Uber’s chief legal officer, announced in a blog post the company’s decision to soften its stance on arbitration for civil sexual assault claims. He also said the company won’t try to convince women alleging assault to keep their claims confidential.

West told Bloomberg Law in a statement that the move doesn’t apply to class actions but “impacts the near entirety of assault claims we see on our platform.”

“We’ve heard over and over from the dozens of advocacy groups we’ve spoken with that few experiences deprive an individual of control more than sexual assault or sexual harassment,” West said. “And we’ve heard what’s most important is for us to restore some sense of control to survivors—whether that’s by giving them a choice of venue in which to pursue their individual claims, or to free them from confidentiality provisions that prevent them from telling their stories if they choose. So while these changes may not please everybody, we believe they represent important steps forward that will ultimately help us all prevent sexual assault more effectively.”

“So moving forward, survivors will be free to choose to resolve their individual claims in the venue they prefer: in a mediation where they can choose confidentiality; in arbitration, where they can choose to maintain their privacy while pursuing their case; or in open court,” West said. “Whatever they decide, they will be free to tell their story wherever and however they see fit.”

The group of Uber riders sued the company in November, alleging that each of the nine women were assaulted or raped by Uber drivers. Some of those women were intoxicated at the time of the incidents. One woman said the driver carried her from the car into her home where he proceeded to rape her.

Uber classifies drivers as independent contractors, rather than employees, but the lawsuit alleges that the drivers act as agents for the company.

Uber users are required to check a box signaling that they agree to certain terms and conditions before they can download the smartphone application that connects them to drivers. The terms include an agreement to take any disputes to arbitration, instead of a federal or state court. After Uber announced it would waive that requirement for riders accusing drivers of sexual assault, the company said it won’t enforce similar restrictions on drivers and Uber employees alleging sexual harassment on the job.

Proving a ‘Pattern’

Christensen thinks the company is pushing arbitration of the unfair competition and consumer fraud claims to avoid litigating publicly the question of whether the company knew or should have known about driver assault risks and took adequate steps to address it.

“They don’t want the discovery to come in about all of the other incidents,” Christensen told Bloomberg Law. “We’re trying to show there is a pattern, that they’ve known all along how often this is happening and that they didn’t even do anything about drivers that had multiple complaints against them.”

West said in the blog post that the company “struggled” with the decision to partially waive arbitration for a number of reasons, including what he said is a lack of reliable data on sexual assault and harassment.

“There is no data to reliably or accurately compare reports against Uber drivers versus taxi drivers or limo drivers, or Uber versus buses, subways, airplanes or trains,” West said.

Uber announced in April that it would beef up rider safety protections, including by more frequently running driver background checks. The company has resisted calls to fingerprint drivers, saying those fingerprint checks could perpetuate discrimination because they are based on arrests rather than convictions. Uber checks criminal records using driver’s names, Social Security numbers, and drivers license information.

Christensen said Uber is also trying to avoid a class action by limiting the federal court case to the individual assault and battery claims, which the judge may decide to separate. She said she raised the unfair competition and consumer fraud claims in part to support bringing the lawsuit as a class action.

“Negligence for individual assaults doesn’t lend itself to a class action in the way that a consumer fraud law does,” Christensen said. “I’d be pleading different causes of action if they said you have to litigate those individually.”

Source : bna.com


TAXI LEAKS EXTRA BIT : from Jim Thomas.

Last night, I picked up a young lady who seemed unfamiliar with Black Taxis. I asked her if she'd travelled in a Taxi before?

To my surprise she said that since coming to London three years ago, she'd never even been in a Black Cab. She said she'd always used Uber, but recently had a close encounter with one of their drivers. 

Leaving a popular bar in Shoreditch, she stood on the pavement opened the Uber app, and within minutes was greeted by an Uber driver in a Prius.

On the journey, the driver appeared to be intoxicated and soon started making improper suggestions towards her. He said that she was dressed like a whore and kept trying to touch her leg reaching back behind the seat. She said she had to keep pushing his hand away. 

The drivers suggestions got worse, so she asked him to pull over as she was about to throw up. As he did this she opened the door and ran off.

I asked her if she'd reported this to the police and she said no. She said she will never use Uber again and had in fact deleted the app. I told her about TaxiApp and she promised to download it.

It was only a short journey to her flat, she said "I'm really surprised the cost is about the same as I was paying on Uber, but do you accept contactless card payments" 

I said "we all do! but tonight, as a reward for deleting the Uber app, you can have this first ride in a London Taxi on the house".



Thursday, May 24, 2018

TP Icap Staff Told They Can No Longer Claim Cab Fares On Expenses Over Black Taxi Ban At Bank Junction

Expenses crackdown at interdealer broker TP Icap: 

This time it’s black cabs in the sights of the beancounters.

Because of the Bank Junction Taxi ban, resulting in higher fares as drivers take Junction avoidance routs, the edict has gone out across the whole company that staff aren’t allowed to take traditional London taxis any more — despite the firm occasionally slapping its livery on them — and they’ll have to rely on Uber to get around town instead.

The TP Icap is happy to advertise on London cabs, but staff may not enter them. Expenses department will also be bouncing back any claims for client entertaining including wine costing more than £80 a bottle: cue much chuntering at boss John Phizackerley, who’s apparently known on the trading floor as Ronnie Barker because of his resemblance to the departed comedy genius.


There’s not much laughing among the rank and file, however.



TfL Bottle It And Rethink On Basic English Language Tests For Minicab Drivers. How Will They Read The Highway Code???


New rules forcing private-hire drivers in London to prove their English language skills are set for a rethink.

The rules would have forced them to pay £180 for a written essay and speaking test by July 16 this year, unless they could produce GCSE certificates proving their command of English.

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Private-hire drivers unable to pass the test or produce certificates would have been banned from working as minicab drivers in the capital.

Today Transport for London said the deadline for drivers to prove their grasp of English had been extended until April 30 next year.

TfL said it would also now review the regulations, to “make satisfying the requirement as simple as possible”.

The announcement came after a crunch meeting between the Licensed Private Hire Car Association and Mayor Sadiq Khan yesterday.  

TfL officials also met representatives of the British Dyslexia Association, which had warned that some private-hire drivers would find it “impossible” to pass the new test.

Steve Wright, the hire car association’s  chairman, said that “tens of thousands” of drivers, including those with reading and writing difficulties and from ethnic backgrounds, had feared they would lose their jobs.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Public At Risk Part 2 : Taxi And PH Scandal, Riddle Of Firms All Based In Single Office



Above a diner and accessible only via a back door off a dingy alley stands a small and unremarkable office.

To the untrained eye, it is the home of a local minicab firm, Wednesfield Cars, whose manager is adamant that his is the only business operating there.

Wolverhampton council knows better. It has licensed 13 competing Minicab companies to run their operations from the very same office.

In the past three years, Wolverhampton has become the go-to local authority for thousands of drivers from all corners of England in search of a minicab licence. In 2015, it issued 852; this year, 9,388. The same period saw the number of minicab companies licensed to operate in the city climb from 12 to 100.

In total, 58 of those companies are listed as operating from one of four Wolverhampton addresses. When The Times visited, there was no trace of 52 of them.

The council has not merely licensed dozens of hard-to-spot firms at those locations. It has also issued licences to thousands of drivers who work in other English towns for companies with exactly the same business names as the Wolverhampton operators. 
Those firms run visible minicab operations in places including Birmingham, Manchester, Stockport, Stoke-on-Trent, Derby, Mansfield, Nottingham, Cambridge, Windsor & Maidenhead and Swale, in Kent.

One of the four addresses has for the past few years been the operations hub for a genuine local company called ABC Cars and its sister ABC Countdown Cars. According to the council, an additional 17 minicab firms operate at the same place. Not so, says Richard Halsall, ABC’s manager, who said he had never heard of any of them.

Licensing experts have suggested an explanation. Under the Deregulation Act 2015, minicab companies operating anywhere are entitled to subcontract work to other firms, with one proviso.

If a minicab firm in Manchester wants to use drivers and vehicles licensed by Wolverhampton, the pre-booked work they are given must be sub-contracted to the firm by a Wolverhampton minicab operator. So it would be convenient for the Manchester firm to be able to show that all the jobs it gives its Wolverhampton drivers were sub-contracted by its sister firm, of the same name, in the West Midlands city.

If that sister operator has no employees and runs no vehicles, the law does not seem to care. This loophole has been embraced by Wolverhampton council, whose “efficient” approach to licensing has proved highly lucrative. Its income from taxi and minicab licences rose from £263,000 in 2014-15 to £2.2 million in 2017-18.

Last night the council defended its conduct, insisting that it applied stringent standards to drivers it licenses and claiming that its popularity was due to swift and efficient online applications.

The authority’s licensing committee chairman, Alan Bolshaw, said its approach complied with relevant legislation and, by embracing digitalisation, was far more advanced that the “very traditional and rigid licensing practices” used by other local authorities.

To suggest that a minicab operator needed to have employees, drivers and vehicles in the area where it was based was a concept that belonged, he said, to the days of “long-winded and outdated processes”.

The 52 minicab operators that did not appear to exist at the four addresses were entirely legitimate. Each was, he said, represented at its registered operating base by a digital recording system, in the form of a box. “Why are there so many vehicles and drivers on the roads licensed by Wolverhampton council? Because we have the best licensing system in the UK,” he boasted.

Other councils would beg to disagree, particularly those hit by a recent influx of Wolverhampton-licensed minicab drivers and cars. Many, as was the case with the earlier surge in Rossendale-plated vehicles, have voiced safeguarding concerns.

Licensing officers in Southampton were contacted by Hampshire police investigating the alleged rape of a female passenger by a local driver. The council did not have him on its books and it turned out that he had been licensed by Wolverhampton.

In Rotherham, the town hit by a mass sex-grooming scandal in which minicab drivers were implicated, more than a dozen men, including five refused licences by the council for reasons including safeguarding concerns, have applied for Wolverhampton licences.

Birmingham councillors claim that Wolverhampton is “more lenient” than its neighbours. A Coventry licensing committee member complained that “treating taxi licensing as a cash cow undermines public safety”. The West Midlands authority was handing out minicab licences “like sweeties”.

Nottingham’s chief licensing officer, Richard Antcliff, accused Wolverhampton of exploiting a “farcical loophole” in the regulations. “Somewhere along the line, Wolverhampton has lost its moral compass,” he said.

The driver arrested in Southampton had no convictions and lost his licence immediately, Mr Bolshaw said. Wolverhampton had “worked extensively” with Rotherham council and the National Crime Agency “to ensure any drivers implicated in child exploitation do not gain Wolverhampton licences”.

Public At Risk As Thousands Of Minicabs Exploit Loophole In Law...Part One.


Public is 'at risk' as local councils hand licences to thousands of PH Minicab drivers from across Britain while failing to check their criminal records

Rapists and other convicted sex offenders have been given licences to operate as Minicab drivers by councils that have failed continuously to check criminal records, it has been claimed.

Some local authorities have also taken hundreds of thousands of pounds in Taxi licensing fees from applicants, knowing they did not have the cab ranks to accommodate them.

An investigation found serious failings at Rossendale, Lancashire, and a legal loophole allegedly exploited by Wolverhampton.

Rapists and other convicted sex offenders have been given minicab licences by councils that have failed to check criminal records, it has been claimed.

British Asian singer, Dhanraj Singh was jailed for nine months after he was found guilty of sexually assaulting a young woman in the back of his Minicab .


The chart-topping musician, who was a Minicab driver by day in his hometown of Nottingham, assaulted the intoxicated woman while dropping her home in 2014.
The 24-year-old father-of-two was granted a licence in 2012, but was not licensed by the city council, according to The Times.
 
He instead applied for a licence from Gedling council, despite not living in the area.  According to the Times, Gedling council granted some 492 licences in 2011 and 1,047 in 2015.

The court heard Singh, who went by the stage name San2, kissed and touched her inappropriately, against her will.
The council revoked his licence as soon as it was notified of the offence. 
Rossendale licenced over 3,700 Minicab drivers last year, despite having rank space for just 75 vehicles, while in Wolverhampton, dozens of minicab firms across Britain have been licensed as local operators, despite having no employees or vehicles in the city.

The vast majority of the drivers licensed by Rossendale did not live in the borough.

Many lived in northern England and the Midlands, but they applied to Rossendale for licences because the council was seen as a ‘soft touch’, it was claimed. 

Northern cities are understood to impose stricter tests and requirements for licences, with some charging higher fees, so drivers flocked to the small Lancashire town.

The investigation by The Times also found that councils issued thousands of licences to drivers, even when it was known some had convictions. 

More than 330 alleged sex assaults by minicab drivers suspects were reported to police in 2016-17.

Councils are losing track of drivers’ criminal records or hiring drivers knowing of their criminal pasts, The Times reported.

In the past decade, 131 drivers have been found guilty of sex offences against passengers.  

One council in Nottinghamshire issued hundreds of Minicab licences to men outside its area, one of whom later carried out a sex attack on a passenger.

Drivers with Rossendale licences have been convicted of offences in York, Milton Keynes and Manchester, the paper said. 

An investigation found serious failings at Rossendale, Lancashire, and a legal loophole allegedly exploited by Wolverhampton (file image)

Assaults by Uber and private hire workers soared nationally 20 per cent in three years, but in London the figure rose by over 50%.

The concerning figures from 23 of England and Wales' 43 police forces show that 337 attacks were reported between April 2016 and March 2017.

Most of the reports were in London, rising from 142 to 156, a freedom of information request found.
 
After a whistleblower raised concerns, Rossendale’s licensing manager was suspended and left the authority, it was reported. They take the money and while victims lives are shattered, these people are allowed to just walk away.

In a change of policy, staff were told no licences could be renewed unless the applicant presented a recent DBS (disclosure and barring service) certificate.

[But in London, 13,000 Uber drivers have been licensed with fake DBS certificates, which TfL knew about and swept under the carpet under the watch of General Manager Helen Chapman].

There were calls for an independent inquiry into the whistleblower’s allegations last night. But the council said they had been investigated and were unfounded.

It said it was confident that it had not issued any licences ‘to anyone who should not have received one’.

Since 2016, Rossendale has introduced measures to cut the licences it issues. Wolverhampton council said it operated ‘robust and rigorous’ vetting and offered ‘the best taxi licensing system in the UK’. 

This claim is highly dubious as recently Winchester Taxi drivers have been complaining that their area has been swamped by drivers obtaining licenses from the more lenient Wolverhampton regulator with the vehicles using cross border hiring regulations to work outside their licensing area.

More In Part Two