Tuesday 11 December 2018

Transport for London appeals over voice contact requirement for Uber

Photo: PA
Photo: PA

Jan Colley

Transport for London (TfL) has challenged a High Court ruling rejecting a requirement for passengers in Uber and other private-hire vehicles to have voice contact with an operator.

TfL says the ability to speak to a real person at all times during journeys is an important safety requirement and is well supported - particularly by groups representing disabled passengers.

It is appealing against a decision by Mr Justice Mitting last year, quashing the telephone requirement on the basis that it was not proportionate.

The judge accepted the need for telephone access in urgent emergency situations, but said the requirement to make available a voice platform in non-emergency cases exceeded what was necessary.

At the Court of Appeal on Tuesday, Martin Chamberlain QC, for TfL, said he agreed with the view that "sometimes there is no substitute for talking to a real live person".

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Arguing that the judge got it wrong, he told Lady Justice Gloster, Lord Justice Patten and Lord Justice Floyd that it would be impractical to have a requirement confined to emergency situations.

It would carry risks of inappropriate use and would not achieve the customer level of protection which TfL sought.

It would forfeit the benefits of reassurance for passengers in non-emergency situations, increased confidence to travel for disabled and vulnerable passengers, and easier complaints access.

It would not achieve TfL's objective of preventing unlawful discrimination, such as when a driver refused to pick up a passenger with an assistance dog, or allow third parties to check on the journey progress of children, relatives or those in their care.

Customer convenience benefits in relation to lost property that would not amount to an emergency would also be affected.

Mr Chamberlain said that providing a full voice contact service - by telephone or over the internet - would be less than 1p per trip and Uber had made clear it would pass all costs to its customers.

The hearing, which is contested by Uber London Limited and three individually licensed drivers, is expected to continue into Wednesday, with judgment reserved to a later date.

Press Association

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