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Uber faces legal action threat — this time from drivers of London’s distinctive black cabs

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Uber is facing legal action from thousands of London taxi drivers, who have grouped together to accuse the ride-hailing company of operating unlawfully in the U.K.

The drivers of London’s distinctive black cabs are planning to sue for millions of pounds after alleging Uber
UBER,
-1.05%
allowed its drivers to accept bookings directly from passengers rather than through its central control, over a five-year period.

The London private-hire market, similar to major cities like New York and Paris, is heavily regulated and only the distinctive black taxis, known as Hackney carriages, are allowed to pick up passengers who flag them down from the street.

The potential group claim, which has been joined by 4,000 drivers, is being advised by law firms RGL Management and Mishcon de Reya.

Read: Uber wins challenge against London operating license refusal

In a statement, RGL alleges: “Uber operated unlawfully by breaching the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 from June 2012 until March 2018.

“Uber permitted drivers to accept bookings directly when they were not licensed to do so. Uber’s failure to adhere to the relevant statutory framework caused loss of earnings to licensed black-cab drivers, who continued to operate lawfully and were subject to strict legislative and regulatory rules and requirements throughout.”

Uber strongly rejects the basis of this threatened litigation, which has been previously threatened and not yet issued.

An Uber spokeswoman said: “Uber operates lawfully in
London and these allegations are completely unfounded.

“We are proud to serve this great global city and the
45,000 drivers in London who rely on the app for earnings opportunities, and
are committed to helping people move safely.”

London, with around 3.5 million users and around 45,000 drivers, is Uber’s largest market in Europe and has been dubbed one of the group’s ‘fab five’ cities — along with New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and São Paulo.

These accounted for around a quarter of the company’s global revenues before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Read: Uber to issue $500 million eight-year bonds

But the company has been under persistent pressure in London, and faced the threat of having its license removed last year by regulator Transport for London, or TFL, over safety concerns. Unauthorized drivers had been able to carry out thousands of rides by uploading their photos to other drivers’ accounts.

Last September, Uber won a court appeal to allow it to continue operating in London after TFL had refused to renew its license.

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