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News - 28 October 2016

Uber launches in Brighton today.

The taxi-hailing service was given a licence to operate in the city last October by Brighton and Hove City Council. Just as an employment tribunal hearing mires the company in controversy the app will launch at 16:00 today.

The service, controlled by a mobile phone app, will enable customers order from their phones, to pay by card and track the location of their arriving vehicle on a Google map.

Uber's private hire vehicles are distinct from hackney carriages in that they must be booked in advance. They cannot stop and pick people up in the street or wait at taxi ranks but they can set their own prices which means they can undercut traditional taxis.

However, Uber was granted its licence by the city council on condition that they abide by all the same conditions as the local cab trade which are set out in a so-called ‘Blue Book’.

All Uber drivers will have to hold the same licence as any other private hire driver, which includes a check by the Disclosure and Barring Service [DBS] for any criminal record.

But an employment tribunal hearing initiated by two Uber drivers has cast doubt upon its business model which claims that all drivers are 'self-employed'. The tribunal has found that they are effectively employees of the company and, as such, entitled to minimum wages, paid holidays and sick leave etc.

Meanwhile, local taxi firm City Cabs has launched its own app which also allows customers to order a taxi from their smartphones. Andy Cheesman, managing director of Southern Taxis, the parent company of City Cabs , said: “As a local, independent company, we are delighted to launch this new app which means our customers can now pay for their journey by debit or credit card while also taking cash and account bookings".

“In addition it also means they can see the exact whereabouts of their taxi so this will improve waiting times. Finally, and most importantly, when they use the app to book a taxi, they can do so in the knowledge that all our drivers are DBS checked and all our taxis have state-of-the-art CCTV.”

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