clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Uber loses challenge over English language tests for London drivers

New, 10 comments

Ride-hailing company had argued that English language requirements would place undue burden on its drivers

Uber stock image

Uber drivers in London will be required to pass an English language exam, Reuters reports, after a court ruled against the ride-hailing company in a decision announced Friday.

Uber had been seeking to stop new English proficiency requirements announced last year by Transport for London (TfL), the city’s transportation agency. Under the regulations, all private-hire drivers will have to pass an English language exam to receive their license, or provide other documentation to prove their proficiency. The exam can cost up to £200 ($245).

TfL has defended the measure as a way to enhance public safety, though Uber argued that the requirements would place an unnecessary burden on its drivers and that the standard were too high. Immigration groups also criticized the regulations on the grounds that they would be discriminatory. The startup filed a lawsuit in August 2016 to block an earlier version of the rules, which would have required a written and oral test. Uber has previously said that the language requirements would impact about 40 percent of its drivers in London.

"TfL are entitled to require private hire drivers to demonstrate English language compliance," Judge John Mitting said Friday, according to Reuters.

“The judgment today means that we can ensure that all licensed drivers have the right level of English, which is vital for customer safety,” Peter Blake, TfL’s director of service operations, said in a statement.

Uber said it plans to appeal today’s decision in an email to The Verge, calling the rule “unfair and disproportionate.” The company noted that it successfully challenged other rules, including a requirement for private hire operators to have a 24/7 phone line in London, and for drivers to maintain commercial insurance even when their car is not used for private hire.

“While we are glad the court agreed with us on the other measures TfL tried to impose 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,” Tom Elvidge, Uber’s general manager in London, said in a statement. “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.”

Update, March 3rd, 7:22AM: Updated to include statements from Uber and TfL.