A Game of Cat and Mouse, or Uber keeping out of the Courts... by Lee Ward.


Well, my hangover has finally dissipated from the session I went on after the hearing in Sheffield on Tuesday, I think.
Let me take this time to reflect on what was said, what decision was made and what has happened since.

Uber came to the hearing fully armed, the local manager, the head of Cities in the North of England, an inhouse legal representative and Phillip Kolvin QC, all suited and booted and a brief case I wouldn’t fill if I used it for a weekend away at Skeg Vegas.

I sat and listened to Mr Kolvin explain somewhere in the region of 14 points that Uber are going to implement through thiscoming year, all to make the journey safer for the public….. SAFER for the PUBLIC, now I don’t know about you people out there, but isn’t that exactly what an operator should ensure anyway?

Geo Fencing the UK to appease local authorities regardingCross Border Hiring, ‘local’ authorities that are still 50 to 70 miles apart. However, they were adamant that each City or Town will not have its own Geo Fence.

Showing the customer where the driver is licensed when they are shown what driver and vehicle are coming to collect them. Giving the customer a chance to cancel if they don’t want someone from Out of Town to pick them up, provided it isn’t surging of course.

A landline for customers to call someone if they are feeling threatened, that same landline that they said was not needed because of the safety aspect of their App.

If a driver receives too many complaints, they will inform licensing of them when they deactivate his account.

If licensing require the GPS trail of a driver who may have been plying for hire then they will supply that information when asked, just like all operators already do, its called a Section 73 but I am sure Mr Kolvin knew this.

A couple of Air Quality tick boxes were also thrown in for good measure, because every council is on a mission for emissions.
Making all UberX vehicles to be Hybrid by 2020 and all electric by 2024, at the customers expense which they failed to mention, but it made them look good.

Installing a charge point infrastructure for the electric vehicles that they will consider the public to be allowed to use also, why not, they did pay for them after all.

So, from this speech, and a great speech it was too, the Licensing Sub Committee (for those that are not familiar, the sub committee is 3 councilors and a legal advisor) got to ask some questions of Uber.

Now, I have to say that at this point I knew what the outcome was going to be, I have represented drivers for minor issues who were asked more questions than Uber were asked in that meeting.
One of the questions that was asked however was who accepts the booking and Mr Kolvin stated that it is Uber that accept the booking and not the driver and that what is happening in London is not relevant to Sheffield because the 98 Act and the 76 Act are different, of course there was no mention of the App being the same though.

I had submitted a 52 page document to Sheffield in objection to this license being granted and went to great detail in who invited and accepted the booking, I can only assume that it was not read, or if it was then was not understood.
We were all then asked to leave the room for the Sub Committee to make a decision on the license, no one was allowed to talk from the trade (from both sides of the argument)

While we waited, Mr Kolvin told me that I had spoilt his weekend with my objection paper (guess someone read it then) and that I made a great argument or words to that effect, I was pulling the knives from my back at the time.
Anyway, we all get called by in to be told the verdict...
Granted a five year license as applied for.
However.

Should the court cases that are under way prove to not go in Ubers favor, we will have no other option than to bring you before the committee to decide on what implications those decisions may have.

95% of the room had smiles from ear to ear, I had resignation throughout my whole body and waited for the fun and games to begin from the Uber Defense League that to be fair to them was nothing as bad as I expected, I had already reached for my bull shit deflectors and had them at the ready, so fair play to them.
 

This is myself after the decision with Nadeem Najib and Mick Swift who drive for Uber in Sheffield
 
Now, lets look at what happens next, it gets a little interesting.
The following day, Uber drop their appeal against the decision in York, why?

Was it because the last thing Uber wanted is for the court to go against Uber and Sheffield have them back in?

This is no disrespect to the Associations in York who put up a grand fight, but do Uber consider Sheffield more important than York?

Perhaps, they have according to Mr Kolvin 400 drivers licensed by Sheffield on the Uber platform that I beg to differ, because they include part time drivers who also work on other companies too. 

Full time drivers, I would estimate to be around 200 but 400 always sounds better when the mindset is that a decision may put 400 drivers out of work, or more importantly deciding that 400 drivers work for more traditional and legal taxi companies but that never gets mentioned.


Then comes the news of Uber stating that they have updated their App so that customers know that a booking is now accepted by Uber London Limited, however, they have not updated their terms and Conditions, so even if a miracle of code writing has occurred, Uber are still not held accountable by the customer should anything happen.

I wonder what’s next, will Mr Kolvin advise Uber to ‘assist’ the drivers who pleaded not guilty for Plying for Hire in Reading so that Uber once again keep the process of their platform out of court, perhaps, they are after all spending £160,000 on drivers who worked in Sheffield while licensed in such as Wolverhampton (that’s another story), London and Rossendale.

The fact is, as time goes by, Uber can recode what they want, toshow what they want while the system still in effect works as it always has, again both here and abroad.

I will keep this one shorter than usual, but I am going to put a request out to (in no particular order) Steve Wright (UPHD), Trevor Merrills (UCG), Grant Davies (LCDC), Steve McNamara (LTDA) Steve Garelick (GMB).

Please, stop the infighting, stop the bigotry and work together for the TfL case coming up in June, just 13 or so weeks away.

The trade look to you for guidance, help and support. They don’t want to hear all the negative arguments between the Organisations. The trade’s subs go towards fighting for them not towards fighting between each other, if you want a pissing contest then do it on your own time and not at the expense of the drivers.

I have done all I can on shirt buttons lads, do what you can with what you have in those chests, share the cost. The drivers will respect you more for a hard fight and spending every penny than no fight and having a chest full of dusty fivers.

It’s down to London now, I can’t afford a Judicial Revue, unless there is a benefactor out there that believes in my fight and what I fight for….
3 month, that’s all we have left, the government is not going to help, the councils can’t afford to help and the trade doesn’t seem to want to help themselves.

In a society filled with the best lawyers and state of the art technology it's obscene to just let this trade wither away and die.

Every driver is covered by an insurance policy that they paid good money for, not a lot of money but good honest money, their licenses and their subs.

I am alone in this fight, seriously outgunned and I am scared…but I am right and I swear revenge…
Be lucky out there and stay safe.

Wardy



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