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Topics include: Direct to consumer / E-commerce / Data & privacy / Martech

Boris Johnson defends Uber but calls for updated laws: 'Technology makes it so easy for [the law] to be broken'

Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, has waded into the heated Uber/black cab conflict claiming that new legislation is needed to accommodate ride-hailing apps that are breaking current laws by picking up passengers on the streets of London.

Writing in his Telegraph column, the mayor of London called for balance in the aftermath of TFL’s proposed legislation to more closely regulate Uber. Its proposals could see Uber's in-app fare calculation measures defined as a taxi meter throwing up hurdles for Uber by bringing further into question its legality. In response to the looming TFL crackdown, over 120,000 reported fans of the app signed a petition to curtail the move, sparking sizeable forces on both sides of the debate.

Looking to bridge the gap between the vehemently opposed parties, Johnson admitted the “law is being systematically broken – or at least circumvented – by the use of the Uber app”.

Johnson referred to Uber’s business model, which allows users – via the app – to hail rides on the streets of London, an act exclusively retained for registered black cabs: "Technology makes it so easy for [the law] to be broken. You no longer need to see a vehicle to hail it. Your phone will see it for you. It will see round corners; it will see in the dark. You no longer need to hail a taxi by sticking your arm out or shouting; you just press a button and within minutes – seconds – the car will be at your side."

He said: “A better solution is surely to try to find a balance that allows a coexistence: on the one side a black cab trade that represents a premium service, offered by people who really know the city, and which makes much better use of its own apps as well as contactless payment; and on the other side minicab apps that have become a boon to so many. I agree completely with the free-marketers: it is nuts to try to ban technology.”

Uber asserts: "In the UK, Uber is fully licensed and regulated and abides by all private hire legislation. Uber’s model has been scrutinised not only by TfL, but by over 25 other regulators and found to be compliant."

The high court today (Monday 5 October) deliberates on cabbies' claims Uber's fare-processor indeed breaches current regulation – a decision is expected Tuesday.

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