Uber has filed a $300 million lawsuit against London taxi drivers

Uber is facing a nine-figure lawsuit from London taxi drivers, marking a dramatic turn in the long-running feud between the taxi app and taxi drivers in the British capital.

A lawsuit against 10,500 drivers will be filed at London’s High Court on Thursday, alleging that Uber wrongly obtained a license to operate in the capital from Transport for London (TfL) in 2012.

RGL Management, a litigation firm representing the drivers, is seeking £250 million ($313 million) in damages from Uber, which it says amounts to a payday of £25,000 ($31,000) per person if successful.

“Uber appears to believe this is above the law, and taxi drivers across London have lost income as a result,” said Garry White, a 36-year-old black taxi veteran, in a statement released by RGL.

“It’s time for them to be held accountable.”

The group reportedly first threatened to file a claim against Uber in 2019, but did not move forward after a meeting with the taxi app’s lawyers. However, RGL now believes it has sufficient grounds and states that Uber has unlawfully taken business from black taxi drivers.

This is what an Uber spokesperson said Fortune: “These old claims are completely baseless. Uber operates legally in London, is fully licensed by TfL and is proud to serve millions of passengers and drivers in the capital.”

The knowledge

The relationship between Uber and London has been stormy, to say the least.

Drivers of Black Cabs, also known as ‘hackney cabs’, undergo one of the world’s most rigorous testing processes to obtain a license, called ‘the Knowledge’.

London taxi drivers are forced to memorize the city’s 25,000 streets and each of their key landmarks, revising this for three to four years before taking the test.

Many saw the arrival of Uber and its GPS drivers over a decade ago as unfair to those who had developed these niche skills.

However, Uber’s proponents believed it offered more choice and convenience to consumers in the city’s expensive transportation market.

The same tensions are palpable across Europe and often result in battles with regulators. Denmark and Bulgaria, for example, forced the app to be withdrawn altogether, while the city of Barcelona imposed a 15-minute wait time on hailing Ubers to protect the local taxi trade.

In London, TfL decided not to renew Uber’s license to operate in 2017, partly due to concerns about the conditions in which gig economy workers live.

TfL said in a statement at the time that Uber “is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence”, citing inadequate driver background checks and failure to report criminal incidents to police.

However, the ban never came into effect, despite a second attempt by TfL in 2019, after Uber addressed regulators’ concerns following the departure of embattled co-founder Travis Kalanick. In November last year, the company announced that passengers would be able to hail black cabs on the platform in London from early 2022, but that announcement also filled with taxi drivers.

Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, told Bloomberg that no taxi groups had been notified of the measure before it was announced.

“We have no interest in tarnishing the name of London’s iconic, world-famous black cab trade by aligning it with Uber, its poor safety record and everything else that comes with it.” , he said.

Representatives for RGL Management and TfL did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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