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Uber has lost a U.K. court case it brought against a London transport authority that plans to require private-hire taxi drivers to pass an English-language communication exam.
The test was first announced back in 2015 by then London Mayor Boris Johnson, and was aimed at bringing more regulation to the burgeoning private-hire taxi industry that companies such as Uber have enabled. The purpose of the exam is to verify that drivers have basic geographic knowledge of London’s streets and that those from non-English speaking countries have proficiency in English reading, writing, and listening. The city’s public transport body, Transport for London (TfL), had planned to implement the new rule, among other regulations, beginning last October, but Uber and three drivers filed a legal challenge in the U.K. capital and subsequently won the right to take TfL to court to challenge the ruling.
Uber has previously claimed to support some level of English-language requirement but argued that the test proposed by TfL was too rigorous. “TfL’s plans threaten the livelihoods of thousands of drivers in London, while also stifling tech companies like Uber,” said Tom Elvidge, general manager at Uber London.
Rejecting Uber’s complaint today, Judge John Mitting said: “TfL are entitled to require private hire drivers to demonstrate English-language compliance,” according to a report in the Guardian.
Uber says that it plans to appeal the court’s decision ahead of TfL’s planned rollout of the English test, which is currently scheduled to kick in on September 30, 2017.
“This is a deeply disappointing outcome for tens of thousands of drivers who will lose their livelihoods because they cannot pass an essay writing test,” said Elvidge, in a statement provided to VentureBeat. “We’ve always supported spoken English skills, but writing an essay has nothing to do with communicating with passengers or getting them safely from A to B. Transport for London’s own estimates show that their plans will put more than 33,000 existing private hire drivers out of business.”
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