A London court has just overturned the TfL ban on Uber operating in London. Uber has been given a licence to operate for 15 months “on probation,” which means, of course, that it will ensure during that time that it meets the conditions required to let it keep operating thereafter.

This is a victory for the consumer.  Although the word “safety” was mentioned, as it was for Southern Rail, no-one should doubt that this is price-fixing. It is an attempt by an established group to keep out newcomers or new systems in order to retain advantages given in excess of what the market would have yielded them. Taxi numbers are limited, and entry made difficult, in order to keep up prices. Uber uses new systems to provide a cheaper service.

This is how the economy moves, and how we all get richer. New ideas and new technologies supplant the old, claiming less of our resources, and leaving us with more money to spend on other things. Nearly always the uncompetitive merchants of the status quo try to use laws to thwart this process. Usually, and eventually, they are overcome. This time the law is not an ass, but an asset.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Uber is an innovative solution to chronic problems of contracting with, and paying, a stranger at night, less restrictively than a regime of municipal licenses, with fewer barriers on newcomers, and with additional services provided. “user” is right that this litigation was nothing more than racketeering among the already-established. To block such innovations is to rule that we are unwilling to let society advance so that the pounds in your pocket go further than they do today.

    Don’t underestimate the creativity of the hacks to invent probationary violations during the next 15 months.

  2. Hackney numbers (in London) are limited. Private Hire are not. Uber cars are Private Hire cars.

    As long as Uber and everybody else’s Private Hire cars and drivers comply with the law on Private Hire, there’s nothing to complain about.

    Hackney fares are regulated, but that regulation is a ceiling. Absolutely anybody can charge absolutely anything up to that ceiling. Private Hire fares are not regulated, but they tend to use the Hackney fares as their guide. And as with Private Hire you contract the fare when you make the booking I don’t see the need for a regulated ceiling, if you don’t like the fare being offered by the Private Hire you’re negotiating with, drop them and take somebody else. Hackney fares are only regulated because they ply for hire and you’re flagging down an anonymous provider or required to take the head of a rank.

    London Hackneys went through all these protests in the 1990s when Private Hire was introduced – something the rest of the country had already had for 40-odd years. The Hackneys just want to have their competitors subject to the same restrictions they operate under – which they operate under as they are anonymous suppliers – without the benefits.