Alternative view

The problem with Uber: Black cab drivers speak out

By Kitty Knowles 19 October 2015
black cab drivers speak out about Uber. Pic: iStock/DKart

The Memo asked black cab drivers to explain why they believe Uber is not the transport of the future.

We’ve covered Uber on numerous occasions: this morning, we exposed the company’s plan to sidestep a high court ban.

While we’re not ones to stand in the way of innovation; in business, as in politics, things are never black and white.

It is easy for Londoners to view Uber as a cheap, mobile-friendly way to get around, and write off the viewpoint of black cab drivers altogether.

Today we wanted to show the other side of the story.

We tracked down five cabbies who’d been vocal on Twitter to find out the ten key concerns they have about Uber. 

These criticisms are unconfirmed accounts from black cab drivers from across London. The Memo cannot confirm the allegations and has reached out to Uber for comment.

1. Uber has bought free passage into London

“Uber has ingratiated themselves on suitably compromisable politicians to facilitate their sleazy actions.”

“They have a very generous weekly fund for ‘courting’ politicians.”

2. Disabled passengers are being overlooked

“[Uber] will see the complete demise of the Taxi trade, a trade that has been the only life line to very many wheelchair users for many decades.”

“User groups like the disabled aren’t able to use Uber vehicles as they are not WAV, a term meaning wheelchair accessible vehicles: the whole London taxi fleet us exactly that.”

Uber black car with driver

3. There are not sufficient checks on Uber drivers

“The company is renowned for not checking drivers backgrounds or insurance details. Recently The London chairman of the GMB Union Steve Garelick, was able to initiate a driver account by uploading the back of a cornflakes box as an insurance cover note.”

“Low standards or barriers to entry into what is now an immediate hire market means that inverted, untested unprofessional drivers are being let loose to practice on the public.”

4. Some Uber employees share their vehicles with unlicensed drivers

“Drivers are paid so little […] so cut corners by sharing their cars phone with unapproved, non-licensed, non-insured drivers, putting customers at grave risk.”

“Camilla Long wrote gushing pieces in the Sunday version about how ‘cool’ Über was until a bloke who didn’t look like the driver on her phone, couldn’t find the Shard near London Bridge Station.”

5. Uber is banking its tax unfairly

“They have domiciled themselves in tax havens. Legitimate law abiding taxi services are subsequently undercut and therefore unable to contribute to the tax revenues of the local economy and national purse.”

“Let’s all pay tax at the same rate. Let’s all operate under the same rules and let’s all carry the same social burdens.”

Black cab in London. Pic: iStock/Nikada
Black cab drivers are still required to pass a 'knowledge' exam. Pic: iStock/Nikada

6. Uber does not look after its drivers

“Customer complaints are not dealt with by Uber, their T&Cs state all complaints must be taken up with the driver.”

“There is no landline or other means of communication for drivers in trouble to contact base to get assistance.”

“Uber drivers can be struck off at any time being saddled with the debt of a vehicle they no longer have the means to run.”

“Workers rights are zero and 60+ hour weeks are common.”

“Uber has the biggest turnover of drivers in the Industry, with drivers struggling to get anywhere near the potential earnings they are promised at their initiation.”

7. Your data is not safe

“It’s no secret in the states that customer details (including credit cards) have been hacked on a large scale.”

“Uber have selected the private/public hire industry as a gateway into the market of data farming.”

Uber Headquarters photo iStock/Jason Doiy
Uber Headquarters photo iStock/Jason Doiy

8. Uber drivers are not always equipped to navigate London safely

“We see many instances where passengers have been thrown out of Uber cars because the driver, for one reason or another, can’t find the destination.”

“You’ve no doubt seen the daily accidents all over the place.”

“Most of their drivers have not done this job before and are blindly following the Sat Nav, and causing accidents all over London.”

“This firm is a danger to the passengers and public alike.”

“The standards of regulation are there primarily to provide public safety. If by ignoring those standards and offering a cheaper service, then compromise will occur to the detriment of all except Uber.”

9. Uber is forcing cabbies to work on an unlevel playing field

“Uber have deliberately bullied their way into markets which completely disregard existing legislation.”

“The London Taxi Driver is considerably burdened by regulation [while] Uber doesn’t know the way or worry about whether he’s got proper commercial insurance.”

“It’s about playing by the rules. Fairness. Public Safety.

“If you want to change the rules, tell me. Consult with everyone. Don’t tell me that you are holding me to a higher standard and put social burdens on me, whilst reducing my market place and telling me to compete on an U-level (sic) playing field.

Traditional London black cab taxis line up along The Mall with Union Jack flags in background.

10. Cab drivers feel failed by the mainstream media

“Every time we try to explain the situation its dismissed and we’re put down as “protectionists” moaning because we want the monopoly to carry on.”

“We’re either portrayed as out of touch, miserable dinosaurs or cheeky, chappie, right-wing racists who think they own the road and hate cyclists.”

“The truth is that taxi companies in London led the market. DaC used technology before the Emergency services and the AA; we had Hailo before Uber broke the law to use the same technology to dispatch ‘Cars’ not Taxis.”

“I accept that my iPhone is more powerful than the spaceship than landed on the moon when I was a schoolboy. I accept the innovation of technology and the advantages it brings: What I can’t stand is the unfairness or injustice of what this gov’t and the mayor have done.”

Thank you to the black cab drivers who agreed to share their concerns with The Memo. You can find them on Twitter @Thomasthetaxi @Petergross11 @TootlestheTaxi @w14taxi @harrywall64

These criticisms are unconfirmed accounts from black cab drivers from across London. The Memo cannot confirm the allegations and has reached out to Uber for comment.

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