Uber wins right to challenge driver English test


By Alexander Muir

Transport company Uber has won the right to take mass transportation system operator, Transport for London, to court over the new rules that would see its drivers forced to pass English tests.

Starting October 1st, Transport for London proposed that all-private hire drivers should undergo reading, writing and listening tests.

London’s Justice Colgate has rejected Uber’s previous argument that an English language requirement for drivers should not include reading and writing skills.

However the judge gave the company the go-ahead to challenge this ruling as there are currently no exclusions in place for some drivers in relation to the language test. He said there was “no objection as such to some requirement being imposed with regard to efficiency in English”.

Uber has argued that an examination of this nature surpasses the required comprehension for British citizenship, and although they whole-heartedly support the development of verbal English skills in their drivers, the test takes this too far.

Transport for London’s new rules would require all private hire drivers from any non-English speaking country to meet a B1 level of English in speaking, listening, reading and writing under the Common European Framework standards.

General Manager at Uber London, Tom Elvidge said: “We’re pleased that the judge has decided this case deserves a hearing. The plans threaten the livelihoods of thousands of drivers in London, while also stifling tech companies such as Uber.”

Justice Holgate also gave the green-light to Uber to challenge other seemingly unfair regulations that Transport for London wants to implement, including a requirement that the Ireland-based transport company opens a 24-hour call centre in London.

Drivers from a number English-speaking countries such as New Zealand and Jamaica are not required to take the test, an inconsistency Uber is expected to challenge in court under the Equality Act.

A spokesperson for Transport for London said that “the changes to private hire regulation were made to enhance public safety and we are determined to create a vibrant taxi and private hire market, with space for all providers to flourish. We look forward to the remaining issues being resolved in due course.”

Legal controversy is not a new phenomenon for Uber. In October 2015, Transport for London questioned the legality of the app, with the high court ruling that the app was legal. The claim made by Transport for London was that the app was a taximeter, which only black-cab drivers are allowed to use and the courts rejected the claim.

Uber’s battles are part of a running global tussle between the company, taxi drivers, politicians and regulators. As the company continues to expand, it is only a matter of time before Uber finds themselves back in court.

A hearing on this latest issue has been scheduled for December 2016.