London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, has criticised San-Francisco based transport network company, Uber, for being ‘excessively bumptious’. On LBC radio today, the Mayor stated that he disliked the manner in which Uber is ‘moving into London and claiming they could take all the business away from black cabs’. According to the Mayor, the main problem with Uber is that it is ‘using mobile phones as what is effectively a taxi metre’.
The Mayor’s comments came as he answered a question regarding a letter sent to him on 4 August by Barking and Dagenham MP, Margaret Hodge, alleging that Uber is ‘competing unfairly’ with London’s black cabs. In the letter, Ms Hodge wrote, ‘I am particularly concerned about the tax structure that Uber and others have apparently constructed, and the impact this has both on the public purse and on the livelihoods of London cabbies and private hire drivers’.
In response to the listener’s query, the Mayor said that he believed Uber had satisfactorily dealt with issues surrounding their tax status, saying, ‘as far as I know they’ve sorted that out’. However, Mr Johnson added, ‘If I may say respectfully…and to all the taxi drivers who rage against Uber, you have my sympathy but in the end there has been no more brilliant advocate of the services of Uber, no more powerful advertisers of that particular brand than the black cab trade’.
Uber is one of a number of apps people can use to book and pay for taxi journeys. Launched in 2009 and currently in operation in more than 70 cities, the app ‘seamlessly’ connects riders to drivers, according to the company’s website.
Protests against Uber have taken place in cities across Europe, including in Paris this January and London in June. Following the London protest, Uber reported a colossal 850% rise in the number of people who had downloaded the company’s app compared to the previous week.