A required English proficiency exam.[Shutterstock – Lamai Prasitsuwan]
Uber, the ride-sharing tech giant, lost a court battle against regulators in London, after trying to combat a requirement that drivers who are solicited in advance can proficiently speak English.
Drivers who now apply for a minicab license must complete and pass a written English exam, including a 120-word essay, reports The Guardian. The test also includes a verbal language portion, according to TechCrunch. A minicab is a term used in the U.K. to describe a “private hire” car, a service that is only available on a pre-booked basis.
The tech conglomerate took legal action against Transport for London (TfL), the public body that deals with transportation regulations, in August after it said the standards to prove English competency is too high.
Uber says such a mandate is discriminatory and will lead to the loss of thousands of drivers, both potential and already working. It plans on officially appealing the judge’s ruling. (RELATED: News Site Makes Commenters Take A Quiz Before They Start ‘Trolling’)
“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,” said Tom Elvidge, the general manager for Uber’s operations in London, according to TechCrunch. “Transport for London’s own estimates show that their plans will put more than 33,000 existing private hire drivers out of business. That’s why we intend to appeal this unfair and disproportionate new rule.”
Justice Mitting, who was presiding over the case, conceded that the evaluation will likely lead to the loss of thousands of drivers, but felt the test was necessary to show that drivers could effectively communicate, according to Reuters.
“Drivers being able to speak English and understand information from passengers and licensing requirements is a vital part of ensuring passengers get the high standard of service they need and deserve,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan told the Independent. “This could include discussing a better route, talking about a medical condition, or ensuring every driver is fully up to date with new regulations.” (RELATED: Uber Forced To Pay Advocacy Group $2.38 Million For Not Picking Up Blind People)
The ruling adds another setback for the company. Uber has been dealing with so many debacles (allegations of sexual harassment, systemic sexism, rampant lewd behavior, cutthroat work culture) that there are almost too many to keep track of. (RELATED: Is This Anonymous App Helping Fuel An Insurrection At Uber?)
Three other TfL proposals, though, were shut down, including a requirement of having a phone line available for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to TechCrunch. The two other rules that were denied approval wererequiring drivers to pay for commercial insurance at all times, even when they are not using their vehicle for ride-hailing, and mandating that minicab operators notify regulators of any “material changes” to the car.
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