London’s transport authority has proposed some changes that could increase the operator license fee for the taxi app Uber in the city. This is just another in the series of moves made by regulators for controlling a company that has caused a number of disruptions in the traditional taxi industry. A consultation was launched by Transport for London (TfL) on Thursday regarding their plans for changing the fee structure for hiring operators privately. The purpose is to ensure that firms are paying fees that are a reflection of the increased costs of managing and regulating the sector.
Uber, based in San Francisco, enables its customers to use their smartphones for booking journeys. The company said that it was in favor of the principle of larger operators paying the high fees and would go over the details once it is able to take a good look at the consultation documents. The Uber app is currently being used by more than 30,000 licensed drivers in London, which has made it the largest operator of private vehicles in the city. According to TfL, the private hire industry in the city has undergone dramatic growth recently as there were about 65,000 licensed drivers around 2013 and 2014. Since then, the number has increased to 117,000.
Due to the rising numbers, the transport authority said that there was a noticeable increase in the costs incurred for regulating the industry. Previous estimates for costs for the next five years had been about 4 million pounds, but now these enforcement cost estimates have been changed to 30,000 million pounds. TfL’s general manager of private and taxi hire, Helen Chapman said that it would only be fair if license fees for private hire operators are a reflection of the costs of regulating and enforcing the trade. As for now, only two rates are charged for five-year licenses.
Small operators have to pay around 1500 pounds for two vehicles and companies that are operating three or more vehicles are required to pay about 2,800 pounds. If the new proposals are implemented, five tiers would replace the existing two. This means that large operators that have more than 1000 vehicles, which includes Uber and competitor Addison Lee, the fee would be increased to 167,000 pounds, and they would also have to pay plus 68 pounds for every car. Uber has been at the center of controversy in a number of countries and it has had to deal with lawsuits from its own drivers, protests from traditional taxi drivers and regulatory bans.
The firm has dealt with several major setbacks in Britain. In March, the company lost a court battle for stopping TfL from imposing strict new standards for drivers in regard to English reading and writing. In another case, it was ruled by a tribunal in October that the company should treat its drivers as employees and provide them with holiday pay and give them minimum wage. An Uber spokesman said that they had been granted permission for appealing the ruling.