Uber with a five-minute wait? Jailed execs? Europe’s war with the taxi app is getting nasty

Uber at a crossroads.
Uber at a crossroads.
Image: Reuters/Neil Hall
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

It’s been a rough week for Uber in Europe.

In France, two executives are standing trial on charges that its cheaper option, UberPop, violates a law passed earlier this year. They could face two years in prison if convicted. This follows huge, often violent protests against the company in Paris. Police in the Netherlands raided the company’s Amsterdam office yesterday (Sept. 29) as part of a criminal investigation into UberPop.

Now, Uber’s European crisis has moved across the Channel to the UK, where London’s transit authority is considering new rules for the taxi-hailing app that include a mandatory five-minute minimum wait, an end to showing live cars within an app, banning the sharing of cabs, and forcing all private-hire firms to allow seven-day advance booking. These measures are designed to protect London’s iconic black cabs.

“We understand that black cab drivers are feeling the pressure from services like Uber,” the company said. “But the answer is to level the playing field by reducing today’s burdensome black cab regulations. If adopted, [the new rules] will mean an end to the Uber you know and love,” the company wrote in an email sent to London users of the app, along with a link to a pro-Uber petition that has crossed 80,000 people.

Uber debuted in London in 2012. Transport for London, which regulates both taxis and public transit, initially took a lax stance on the service, which undercut prices of London’s iconic black cabs. By 2015, private-hire cars in London—those that aren’t black cabs—were up more than 25%.

Relations between Uber, TFL, and cabbies have grown increasingly hostile, with black taxi drivers staging several road-blocking protests in recent months against what they call TFL’s toothless regulation of the service. For many drivers, even the new rules are too little, too late. The United Cabbies Group—a union with a potent sense of drama, if not proportion—compared TFL’s proposed regulations to Neville Chamberlain’s concession of the Sudetenland to Adolf Hitler.

Black cab drivers are planning another demonstration in central London for tonight’s evening rush hour.

Watch this next: A London taxi driver needs to memorize 25,000 streets. An Uber driver just needs a phone