/ Travel & Leisure

Is Uber good for passengers?

Transport for London (TfL) has proposed regulations for mini cab services like Uber, but it would seem that there’s been little consideration for the impact on passengers. We’re calling for a rethink.

Now, I love a good incentive scheme. My favourite coffee shop ensures it stays my favourite by giving me my 10th coffee free, but I do wonder if I’m the only one who feels a tad guilty reaping rewards for recommending a service I love to friends. Uber for example gives me £10 credit for recommending a friend, and gives that friend £10 towards their first ride too.

Unfortunately there are changes afoot that might make me less likely to recommend Uber in the future.

Putting the brakes on Uber

TfL is proposing new regulations on the mini cab industry that, if implemented, would force people to wait five minutes for a vehicle, even if one was available sooner.

The proposals could also stop mini-cab companies from sharing information on mini-cab availability and waiting times either physically of via an app. This is a key feature of Uber and other apps which allow you to get a view of the availability and wait times of cabs ahead of booking.

Another of TfL’s proposals would require companies to specify fares before the journey. This could pave the way for fixed price tariffs, which would exclude cases where charges calculated by time and distance can be more efficient.

We haven’t yet seen evidence that the current system isn’t working, so we think there is little justification for these reforms to be taken forward.

And these proposals won’t just impact Uber, which has more than a million users in London. They will also affect any mini-cab company wanting to offer similar services.

Now, we support improvements to the quality, safety and standard of cab services, but we’re concerned that some of the proposals would damage competition by restricting private hire cab companies.

Let the public drive this forward

We’re concerned that TfL is giving too much consideration to what the industry wants, and not thinking about passengers. On TfL’s initial consultation only 5% of respondents were members of the public, while around 80% were from people connected to the mini cab or taxi industry.

So, we’re submitting a response to TfL’s consultation. We’re urging TfL to think about the unintended consequences of these reforms. Putting consumers in the driving seat, in any market, will help increase competition which will benefit people, business and growth in the economy.

We think passengers should be driving the London cab debate, so do let us know what you think about these proposals.

Useful links:

Which? response to the Private Hire Regulations Review consultation and proposals (PDF)


It seems the uber drivers are working very long hours,some are working 80hrs a week,surely this is dangerous.Also had a look at the uber london drivers forum,seems they are not very happy,especially when there is no surge pricing ,some of them seem to keep refusing rides,and this makes surge pricing more readily available.Think i will stay with Black taxis .

Why do a debate when you are removing comments you don’t like, Uber is the worst thing to happen to this country , there are better app’s hailo get and cap app where st least the drivers know where they are going uber drivers union is taking them to court they have 154 lawsuits. Going on worldwide , if you want a honest debate stop deleting ?

Only ‘discovered’ Uber last week, so I really can’t add to the discussion , other than to note It must be setting a record for the most votes – up and down – and the most moderator deletions and edits. I haven’t looked, yet, but I assume from the tone of many postings that Uber only operate in London? Even ‘normal’ taxis don’t operate where we live, but in any case one post I read which clearly needs addressing is #comment-1425800.

Hello all, we’re very happy for you to make criticisms of companies. A balanced debate with both sides of the argument is the dream, and you can see that there are comments from all opinions published on this discussion.

We carry out very light moderation on Which? Conversation, however, very serious unsubstantiated claims are in direct contravention of our terms and conditions. Our community guidelines and T&Cs are here to foster a community atmosphere where anyone feels they can share their views, and we encourage comments from both sides of the argument.

We’re working very hard to get comments up as quickly as possible and making as few changes as possible. Please have patience and thanks again for sharing your views. If you’d like to discuss any of this with me, as the Editor of this website, please don’t hesitate to email me: https://conversation.which.co.uk/contact-us/

John Osborne says:
11 December 2015

Everyone should just look into Camerons kids godparent working for Uber

In the interest of keeping comments on the subject of Uber, a couple of off-topic comments have unfortunately had to be removed from this particular thread, as per our community guidelines. If you’d like to be emailed a copy of your comment so that you can post it in a more suitable place, such as here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/welcome-to-the-new-which-conversation/ please don’t hesitate to email me, as the managing editor of Which? Conversation, here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/contact-us/

What did I tell you, folks?
Dear Mr Steen, (the managing editor of Which? Conversation, …………… !)

Since you’ve ‘had’ to remove these comments, how are we supposed to know which ones they were, since they’ve been removed?
So just who should write to you @ … conversation.which.co.uk/contact-us/ ?
Perhaps everyone who thinks that their comment/s might have been censored ….
Oops, ‘had’ to be removed
should write, to you?
THAT really would keep you busy.
You see, in those immortal words:
” … as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

Since this is a reasoned response to YOUR dictat, it isn’t eligible to be deleted – is it?

What parts are Which? staff unhappy with?

Uber claim to be active in 12 cities/areas in the UK . I have no idea as to what is happening in the other eleven areas so that might be interesting to see if Which? can provide an oversight. Perhaps some regional correspondents can provide the info.

” So, we’re submitting a response to TfL’s consultation. We’re urging TfL to think about the unintended consequences of these reforms. Putting consumers in the driving seat, in any market, will help increase competition which will benefit people, business and growth in the economy.”

Please lets see the Which? changes so we can compare them to the TFL.

I was discussing the cherry-picking aspects of Uber with my wife and we feel this is an example of Which? encouraging cheap to drive out the better regulated and therefore quality service. Can Which? respond to this aspect as cherry-picking in any area of commerce DOES have consequences.


Interesting to see that Uber’s impetus is the 20% of each job they get. And the over-abundance of depearte drivers seeking an income.

On a similar tack as Uber is AirBnB
“San Francisco voters have rejected a proposal to limit short-term rentals offered by AirBnB and similar services. The US city is facing a housing crisis, exacerbated by landlords renting out their property to visiting tourists rather than residents. Under the rejected Proposition F, landlords would have been fined if they rented out their homes short-term for more than 75 days a year. The result of the poll was closer than anticipated.”

The full story is on the BBC. However this illustrates that it is possible to do virtually anything cheaper provided you decide to ignore any adverse effects that follow on.

By the nature of the beast when these ideas reach the UK they have already received funding and refined their tactics in the US. Signing up a few well-connected people is so US and increasingly a tactic in the UK.

The last paragraph mentions a $1m fund to ” Elsewhere, it also emerged Uber had hired a team of opposition researchers and journalists, with a million-dollar budget, to dig into the personal lives and backgrounds of media figures who reported negatively about the company. ”

Nice people. I assume they also have a large fund for people who say nice things about them also. : )


On our occasional visits to London we tend to use black cabs if burdened with luggage but otherwise we use public transport. We have never used uber [which I understand hails from California]. I had assumed that all uber drivers had to be licensed by TfL and their vehicles approved as suitable for private hire use. Several comments here seem to cast doubt on this – could we have the facts please?

Whereas uber drivers might have to rely on satnavs for route-finding, at least initially, many black cabs also have a satnav [essential for outlying suburbs I expect] which they refer to in central London for avoiding hold-ups and road closures so uber has no technological superiority. Black cab drivers will be much more knowledgable about destinations and routes but presumably over time the uber drivers will acquire this facility – at the passengers’ expense of course rather than in their own time and subject to an examination.

There are worrying comments above on the hours operated by some uber drivers, but are black cab drivers regulated on hours at the wheel?

Since black cabs are easy to hail, capacious, easy to get in and out of, comfortable to ride in, and with a passenger compartment separated from the driving cab, we will probably patronise them for as long as we can, so we would be against anything that threatens the livelihood of the black cab drivers, but there must be beneficial elements of the uber system that can be applied to black cabs and I feel effort should be put into that. Making people wait for five minutes before getting in a uber vehicle strikes me as a desperate and pathetic attempt to level the playing field for a pathetic reason too – so they can look the route up before picking up the passenger!

JW – out of curiosity did you read this?

I should point out that Uber will also provides links to the finance, and the insurance, for the car you may be needing – to be one of the drivers. Is it just faintly possible that we will be introducing a new class of self-employed who will be working for buttons whilst servicing their overheads. And of course Uber will be getting a cut of it all.

I do not want to suggest that people working for buttons is not advantageous of those who use their services but for society as a whole it may be I will end up supporting someone who’s family needs assistance even though technically in full time self-employment.

I realise that these comments:

” Alan: “There are too many drivers. Today I started 8am and now is 12:20 pm I had only one job, last year this time I was making over £300 a day there is more supplies and the demand is the same.”
Shaykhwaz: “Start 6am do a couple of rubbish £5/6 jobs, then sit around and wait for a job. Looking at my Uber riders app, I can see loads of drivers plotting everywhere in London at least 2/3 cars on every street!”

prove nothing. However perhaps Which? needs to provide subscribers with far far more information before we can see that Which? is actually considering the bigger picture.

Trust us on this. Which? subscribers are generally very intelligent and can handle complex ideas and consider your recommendations.

Diesel – I hadn’t read the link until just now when I skimmed through it. As an occasional visitor to the capital I am not over-bothered about how London sorts this out so long as (a) any vehicle that is used to convey passengers for payment is suitable for the purpose, is in satisfactory condition, and is clean and comfortable, and (b) any driver is qualified, is competent, has a good driving record, and has no criminal record or behavioural issues. I would expect that the evidence of such compliance should be a vehicle licence plate and a driver’s licence badge but this is not stated. The Intro is also rather vague on how the charges are set and whether they are mandatory or merely maxima. I have not recognised any Uber vehicles or drivers so I do not know whether such standards apply and it seems odd that this Conversation is going along in ignorance of these basic aspects of the service. Essentially I should like to know whether Uber vehicles and drivers are treated the same for regulatory purposes as any other mini-cab/private hire vehicles which are permitted only to respond to booked calls. If so I am not sure what all the fuss is about other than the likelihood that there are far too many cabs of all descriptions for the available trade and the traditional plying-for-hire drivers regard the Uber drivers, as new entrants, as encroaching on their customs and privileges aided by technology that effectively closes the gap between booking the cab in advance and hailing it in the street.

My nearest city, Norwich, has a similar surfeit of cabs at certain times. So far as I know there is no Uber service there but there are sometimes forty to fifty taxis queuing up at the railway station and drivers I have spoken to are sometimes waiting for two hours before getting a fare which might only be £8 – £10. It is the sort of self-employment that is attractive to people who have lost their jobs in mainstream employment and the licensing requirements are not so rigorous as is the case in London. Faced with an influx of new cabbies, the longer-serving drivers have protested to the city council over the number of new licences being issued but so far to no avail; the licensing department says that it cannot take length of service into account in judging applications since once granted a licence will normally be renewed annually and would only be revoked in the case of a criminal offence or a gross breach of the licence conditions.

The expectation is that the market will eventually restore equilibrium and should not be manipulated by the authorities. I think that was where Boris Johnson was coming from originally in London but has caught himself on the horns of a dilemma that can only be resolved through some tinkering with the rules which is not acceptable to either side.

“Thanks, Guv . . . very decent of you . . . enjoy your day. I had that Patrick Steen in the back once. Nice gent but he likes all this high-tech stuff and ‘e don’t want the proper service no more. Kept his eye on the meter all the time but he was good for a bit of conversation.”

Thanks for reading the link – it was illuminating.

As to the criteria for becoming a TfL approved driver they seem remarkably straightforward but funnily do not list speaking English as a requirement which seems perverse.

I note that the topographical assessment takes a half day or day at any of 100 plus assessment places. I have no doubt they are all highly respectable.

I was driving in London yesterday afternoon and it was nearly 1 hour for 12.6 miles which is revealing as to the congestion levels in South London. Admittedly at 5 pm it took only 45 minutes for the 12 miles.

The article “Is Uber good for passengers?” which rather frames the question in a narrow and forcing way. Perhaps questions like do we want 20% of all our cab fees to be untaxed and go the Netherlands would be a fun topic for Which?. Personally I like all money to be earned and spent in the UK as this is good for the economy.

For details how it works in NYC here is an article which outlines the problems for drivers. It is actually a lightweight article as depreciation is a very very real cost that is not factored in . Perhaps Uber benefit fron the innumeracy and desperation of the drivers.


Uber Uber Uber

From the Register a revealing article on Uber’s world view
18 Nov 2015 at 21:58, Richard Chirgwin


Those were some of the more amusing outcomes of yesterday’s Australian Senate hearing into corporate tax avoidance, as app-hawkers Uber and Airbnb channeled Milo Minderbinder from Catch-22 with the argument that since everything they do is good for everybody, why fuss about the rules?

Uber told the inquiry its Australian business doesn’t pay tax because it doesn’t generate any revenue – drivers are allowed to keep 75 per cent of a ride’s fee, the company said, and the other 25 per cent goes to the Netherlands. Uber Australia merely employs support staff in Australia, paid for because head office happens to feel kindly towards the antipodes.

“Uber Australia doesn’t generate revenue, the Dutch company generates revenue, the platform generates the revenue”.

The ride-share company also re-stated its complaint against Australia’s Goods and Service Tax (GST – the local equivalent of sales tax or VAT), saying it shouldn’t be assessed against a tax drafted in 1999 because it’s a startup. “We don’t think that it is appropriate that the tax office has essentially applied a 1999 law to what is a brand new business model that didn’t envisage this type of activity”, public policy director Brad Kitschke told the inquiry. Its operations should not be taxed like a taxi service, Kitschke said, because Uber isn’t a taxi company, it’s a technology company.

I know i could probably look up how tax is paid for in the UK but reckon Which? staff probably want to do this.

Well I have read the TfL document and cannot see what Which? staff might be objecting too. Anyway I have completed my return and if Which? provide any answers I can go back in to change mine if I am persuaded on ANON-2VC1-RNH-Q .

I was impressed with TfL’s work and plans.

dieseltaylor says:

However this illustrates that it is possible to do virtually anything cheaper provided you decide to ignore any adverse effects that follow on.
EXACTLY, dieseltaylor
And this is what is happening in the increasing private provision of Health, Wellbeing and Care in UK.
”Quick-Fix” private clinics with little if any ICU back-up grabbing an NHS 999 Ambulance to rush their C-Ups to a fully functioning NHS Hospital. The very hospital which the privateers, with their chums in the CCGs, are running out of business by undercutting on essential service costs..

These asset stripping, parasites are a threat to our civilized society – and a further manifestation of the
Private Luxury & Wealth – Public Squalor & Poverty
ethos sweeping thru’ much of the ‘Developed’ world at the moment.

Rather than just examining each of these manifestations, as in the case of Uber, Gas, Electricity, Water, then Which?, flying its banner of ”Community”; should be helicoptering UP to keep a Watch-ing eye on the totality of the fragmentation of the essentials of UK society

You can now read our full consultation response to the Private Hire Regulations Review here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Private-Hire-Regulations-Review-Which-Response-December-20151.pdf

I’m a bit surprised that Which? had virtually no agreement with any of the TfL proposals in its response. Maybe they are right. But as for competition, will the number of people wanting to take a cab in London increase in proportion to the number of vehicles available. Figures I have seen show 23000 black cabs. Uber (promoted by Goldman Sachs and Google) claim they will have 42000 by 2016 (just round the corner – literally). So something must give.

I favour genuine competiton. A black cab apparently costs twice as much as a Prius, and their licence costs three times as much (so I read). Not a good start. Perhaps we should explore just what black cabs, as an operation, offer that private hire vehicles don’t. Otherwise, why not expect all black-cab drivers to form a consortium within London working off their own app., ditch their black cabs and buy Toyota Prius’s instead. Fight like with like.

Are the 42 000 extra private hire vehicles Uber claim will be on London’s streets next year going to help or hinder pollution control? Perhaps we should restrict the number of licences to ensure the health of its inhabitants and visitors is better protected. Have Which? thought of this when promoting the Uber model?

And just to illustrate the results of unlimited growth here is Uber flexing its muscles with its desperate “staff ” who what with car loans and insurance are caught by the proverbials. I am astonished that the trajectory of this business model has not been properly discussed.

I can understand that Which? has a view that anything that is cheaper for consumers is a good thing however I am afraid this short-termist review is flawed. As for the main stream Press they know where the big money lies ….

I do not think the paper by Amber Bechouri is balanced as it simply ignores the downsides of Uber and similar. It also ignores the legal requirements that make a Black Cab the way it is.

This may be the result of the style of the TfL documentation. However we still have the input as representing Which? and mentioning the 1.2m subscribers and supporters – and by implication that Which? is actually speaking for these people. It isn’t. Perhaps when claiming to put forward a consensus view it would cover the subject fully and then perhaps invite our views to see how many people actually agree or disagree to get a fairer representation of views when responding to these requests form decision making bodies.

It is also a business style similar to those who deliver parcels around the UK in their personal vehicles and face continual pressure to do more just to make a small profit.

Anyway read on:
“Drivers for the car-sharing service Uber claim they are now making below the minimum wage after the multibillion dollar company cut fares in more than 100 US cities by as much as 45 percent. With their hourly pay as little as US$2.89, drivers are calling for boycotts and switching to alternative apps like Lyft.

Uber made the cut to increase its share of the market – and the drivers were the ones to take the financial hit.
One driver explained the cuts have made him less motivated to work and unwilling to wait for a customer if they are late.

“I now do not wait over five minutes for a passenger to show up when I arrive, because I get $5 for a cancel fee rather than driving them three miles to get the same $5,” he told the Observer anonymously via Facebook Messenger for fear of retaliation.

Uber drivers are encouraging users to boycott the company – and drivers in Philadelphia have said they plan to sue Uber over their independent contractor status. Uber takes a 25 percent cut of each fare and doesn’t offer a tip option on the app. The company recently partnered with the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to “empower urban entrepreneurs”, which some believe is just industry-speak for ‘people who will work for less than minimum wage’.

Drivers are distributing boycott flyers online and via social media. So far, protests have been held in Houston, Tampa, and San Francisco.
Next month, drivers will strike for fair wages on February 12-15, according to a Tweet by @MenHaveSecrets2, a part-time Uber driver from Hollywood, California.
They are demanding fares be restored to 2014 prices and for Uber’s cut to be reduced to 20 percent. They also want a freeze on new hires as the market is heavily saturated.”


The rest of the thread there talks about the number of felons driving for Uber after the checking process.

Just to show I can maintain an interest in a subject here is an interesting article on what Uber is doing, and the effects on some of the cities where it operates:


London even gets a mention.
“In London, a study by the Department for Transport found that the rise of taxi apps such as Uber has played a part in worsening congestion. The number of private-hire vehicles has jumped 26 percent in the past few years, according to the city agency. In New York City, where there are now twice as many Uber and Lyft cars as yellow taxis, transportation analyst Charles Komanoff has crunched Uber’s own numbers and estimated that Uber-caused congestion has reduced traffic speeds in the central business district by about 8 percent.Urban cores, which have already been operating at or near traffic capacity, cannot simply add thousands of additional cars to already-crowded streets and not expect dramatic knock-on effects. That’s just common sense.”

Valerie Wenham says:
4 May 2016

I’d be interested in Uber, as they quoted about one third less than my local company on a journey from SW London to NW1. But, I do not have an IPhone or anything similar – my mobile phone, which incidentally only works from my home if I go upstairs or outdoors – is the most basic available, so of course I have no recourse to apps. Since the use of Uber seems to depend on this relatively new technology, I would be interested to hear opinions and advice from ‘Which’ subscribers’.