Uber supporters hit out at ‘damaging’ London plans to restrict service

Business leaders and consumers come out in support of ride-hailing app after TfL proposes restrictions

Plans to crack down on Uber in London have triggered a severe backlash from passengers and business leaders, with the capital’s transport authorities accused of “arbitrary” proposals that would “damage London”.

The Institute of Directors, which represents thousands of top bosses across Britain, slammed Transport for London’s plans to ban many of the popular minicab-hailing service’s key features, saying they would “embed economic inefficiency” in the capital’s transport regulations.

Meanwhile, around 100,000 people signed an online petition supporting Uber after it urged its users to support the service.

TfL unveiled a three-month consultation on rules for private hire vehicles, saying it hoped that new regulations would improve passenger safety, and “maintain a clear distinction between the taxi and private hire trades”.

However, many of the proposals were interpreted as an attack on Uber, a service that connects drivers to passengers via a smartphone app, and is used by more than 1m people in London. Among the suggestions are a minimum five-minute wait between ordering a car and it arriving, and a ban on showing cars available for hire, which is a key feature of Uber.

“These new rules would embed economic inefficiency and create artificially high prices for passengers,” said Simon Walker, director general of the IoD.

“Imposing a minimum five-minute wait time will just mean passengers stand on the side of the road looking at their car, unable to get in – wasting time, clogging streets and costing money. Outlawing companies from showing available cars on an app is a Luddite solution to a problem which doesn’t exist.

“Their proposals for further restrictions to an already heavily-regulated industry are backwards and would damage London’s reputation as a city which celebrates innovation and embraces change.”

Baroness Harding, the chief executive of TalkTalk, writing in the Telegraph, called it “extremely disappointing that TfL has chosen resoundingly in this case to make itself part of the problem” and saying that “customers should be treated like grown-ups and given a choice”.

David Leam, of London First, said: “By making it harder for new companies to provide what consumers want, TfL has put itself on the wrong side of public opinion.”

Since Uber’s introduction in 2012, the service has soared in popularity, but cabbies and traditional private hire companies have accused it of skirting the rules and demanded that TfL take action.

Uber has repeatedly clashed with authorities in several other countries, leading to the suspension of some services.

Yesterday, two Uber executives in France appeared in court in Paris. They face six charges including “deceptive commercial practices” and violating data protection laws.

The case has been delayed until February.

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