26 September 2017   |  Last Updated 17-12-2014 09:34

      Wednesday 17, December 2014

      BLOG: Uber taxis aren't introducing competition to the market, they're steamrolling it


      GETTING a taxi in Manchester isn’t hard, in addition to the dozens of black cabs roaming the roads there are a multitude of independent cab companies that will provide a ride for cheaper.

      The payoff of this is a perceived trade in reliability and quality, a black cab will be more expensive but you can trust it to get you where you want to go.

      The choice used to be simple to those needing a cab, go find a black cab or ring for a taxi.

      Prices are expensive but the advantages a taxi provides over public transport is considered worth it by most, you are also paying a premium for a knowledgeable driver who knows every road and route like the back of his hand (and can take a ‘shortcut’ to get a couple more quid from you in the process).

      But now there is another player on the market, Californian company Uber introduced an app that can summon a taxi and allow the customer to track progress, no more “It’s just around the corner mate” or five minute waits that soon become twenty.

      I myself was in need of a taxi late last Thursday night, stranded in Manchester City Centre with no buses or trams available to help I had to join forces with three strangers.

      The first mumbled something about “getting stick from the missus” if he spent so much on a black cab and immediately proceeded to ditch us and hop in a black cab bound for Bolton, despite all our destinations being on the way.

      Somewhat bemused, I rang for a private cab to take myself and the remaining two strangers back home, all we could do then was wait and try to spot our cab approaching.

      In that waiting time I could understand the appeal of an Uber cab, firstly they seemed to be everywhere; most of the taxis passing bore the Uber sticker upon their side.

      It seemed like a huge fleet of Uber cars had invaded Manchester almost overnight.

      The ability to check on my phone exactly how far away the approaching ride was would have been extremely useful as one of our number dashed off to a cash machine upon realising his wallet was empty, cue a few minutes of awkward silence when the taxi arrived while we waited for him to get back.

      Had I been able to track the taxi’s progress I would have advised him to go sooner, he had ummed and ahed over whether to risk it.

      But as our taxi pulled up I felt all the better for its arrival and the fact that it did not bear the Uber sticker, as I had heard the horror stories about Uber.

      Our driver was friendly and chatty in the way cabbies are, he knew the roads and route without having to refer to a SatNav and got me back home, not at a sensible hour mind you otherwise I’d have used public transport but safely home nonetheless.

      I wouldn’t have felt so secure had it been an Uber taxi taking me home.

       

      Anyone who can drive can become an Uber cabbie; all it takes is a drivers licence and a Private Hire licence.

      The lack of regulation over their drivers allows Uber to undercut established companies and black cabs on price, the rates of the cab fall in accordance with the experience of the driver.

      Uber drivers could be anyone, with only a moderate knowledge of the city they are operating in, to obtain a Private Hire licence in Manchester requires knowledge of roads and landmarks but is not as extensive as the knowledge required to drive a black cab.

      The most worrying bit of the list of requirements to be an Uber driver is the lack of regulation on the sort of person who can become one.

      There is nothing stopping people with criminal records and convictions from becoming a driver, only the very vague determination by the Licensing and Appeals Committee to be a “fit and proper person”.

      This can include convicted criminals such as paedophiles and rapists, indeed some Uber drivers have actually attacked their passengers and the company has come under fire from the lack of regulation its low prices are built on.

      Uber gets by currently but undercutting its rivals on price because it doesn’t properly regulate its drivers.

      If Uber drivers were forced to follow the same rules as everyone else it would reduce their ability to undercut their rivals and turn the company into a clever and more convenient way to order a taxi, but if other cab companies released their own apps it would remove even this advantage.

      Amid a growing storm of controversies and attacks caused by unregulated drivers, Uber has come under fire from furious customers, yet their profits and popularity continues to grow as they expand into more cities.

      The only way to force a change is to stop using Uber, voting with your wallets and accept a more expensive taxi ride, it’ll cost more but it’s the only way to force Uber to change.

      Otherwise, you might see the individual cab companies in your area disappear one by one, until Uber is your only option. Then you might not have a choice.


      By Joe Harker
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