Is the ‘Uber’ app legal?

Update 02-09-14

Since we originally posted this article, Uber has been banned in Germany, effective immediately, after a Frankfurt court ruled that the company behind the app did not have the required legal permits to operate in the country.

The San Francisco-based company have been ordered to stop operating their service in Germany and have been told they will face a fine it they continue to take passengers. The decision has come about following a lawsuit filed against Uber by Taxi Deutschland, an association of German taxi companies.

A spokesperson from Uber said: "We will continue to operate in Germany and will appeal the recent lawsuit filed by Taxi Deutschland in Frankfurt.

London’s transport authorities chose not to pursue action against the makers of the app in June this year, but the Frankfurt court’s decision may give British taxi firms new hope of a similar ban here.

Please read on for our original blog about the Uber app…

Hackney cab drivers have recently protested in London against the new Uber app, which has become available to private hire drivers. Their actions have highlighted the need to appreciate the difference between the two types of licensing for carrying fare paying passengers in a taxi.


Nineteenth Century legislation (Town Police Clauses Act 1847, section 37) provides for the licensing outside London by local authorities of hackney carriages for plying for hire in a street – i.e. acting as taxis.  They are licensed by local councils in England and Wales, with a separate system in London being applicable, again based upon 19th Century legislation which has gradually been amended over the years. 

A ‘taxi’ in London can be a hackney carriage, which allows you to ply for hire (i.e. a potential passenger can hail a taxi). A private hire vehicle can only carry passengers who have booked in advance. The licence for operating a private hire vehicle is less expensive.

The App

The new app which is being applied in London has blurred the difference between the two types of taxi licensing.  It is a criminal offence if you ply for hire without a taxi licence, or the licence number is not displayed. The idea behind Uber is that users can hail a private hire vehicle from nearby using their mobile phones, and their phone works out the price based on time and distance travelled. Taxi drivers are arguing that this is too similar to a meter, which only they are allowed to use in London – private hire vehicles must quote a price upfront.

The new app may require a test case to determine what type of licence is required for those vehicles which use Uber. 

Taxi and private hire vehicle drivers should consider their position, should the new app be applied by local authorities on a regional basis.  If you’re looking for advice from trusted solicitors in Bristol, please contact Philip Brown at AMD Solicitors on

This article is provided for general information purposes only and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at the date of uploading. This article should not be relied upon as legal advice pertaining to any specific factual situation. Legal decisions should be made only after proper consultation with a legal professional of your choosing.

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