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Here’s how London is cracking down on Uber

Taxi driver Joe Senatore joins other drivers during a demonstration along the Mall in central LondonTaxi driver Joe Senatore joins other drivers during a demonstration along the Mall in central London
Taxi drivers demonstrate in central London in 2014 in a protest against Uber.Photograph by Luke MacGregor — Reuters

After outright bans for some of its services on the continent, Uber is now facing a crackdown in the U.K., the European market which has been most welcoming to it.

London, by far the most lucrative local taxi market in the country, is proposing to enforce a raft of new measures that would nullify many of the advantages that the company currently has over the established licensed ‘black cabs.’

In a 27-page document of proposals issued for consultation Tuesday, city hall proposes, amongst other things, a minimum wait time of five minutes before customers can be picked up to “further reduce the risk of a customer getting into the wrong car and/or unlicensed vehicle.” Another proposal will stop Uber users from seeing cars that are immediately available for hire on the app when they open it.

Such proposals will eat into the competitive advantage of Uber over its rivals: short wait times are one of its key selling points, in London as elsewhere.

“These rules make no sense,” Uber said in an e-mail urging users to lobby City Hall against them.

Another proposal which may prove controversial is an English-language requirement for drivers, given that cab driving is a popular choice of work for recent immigrants.

Other requirements include tighter controls against the use of unlicensed drivers (an issue which has brought the company grief in a number of markets around the world) and one insisting that operators must offer a facility for pre-booking up to seven days in advance (which Uber doesn’t do at present).

London mayor Boris Johnson has struggled to resist pressure from drivers of the city’s trademark black cabs, which Uber has aggressively undercut since launching in the U.K.

All the same, Britain is still treating the company a lot more gently than many European countries: Dutch authorities raided Uber’s European HQ for the third time Tuesday on suspicion of it operating illegally. The Netherlands, France, Belgium and Germany have all banned the UberPop ride-sharing service. In France, meanwhile, the head of its western European operations and its country chief in France both went on trial Wednesday on charges relating largely to UberPop.