Joking aside -- because I wholeheartedly believe we have the best cab service in the world on our streets -- the news the cab driver's trade body, the LTDA, is considering suing Uber will have leapt out at many commuters this morning.
Talk about a couple of heavyweights slogging it out over the capital's streets!
Sky News has the lowdown on the LTDA's action. The trade body is in talks with a top London legal firm to see whether it can build a case to sue Uber for loss of driver earnings. The total given exceeds a billion pounds in lost earnings.
The reason why the LTDA is angry is very clear. Transport for London (TfL) refused to renew Uber's licence last year because it considered the company "unfit." There had just been a major hack revealed at the company and it admitted it was also not reporting incidents with drivers properly. Its aggressive stance under its previous, and since ousted, CEO was also not helpful.
That's why Uber was banned and the LTDA was among the first to start dancing in the streets. The recent decision to grant Uber a provisional 15-month licence saw the partying curtailed as cheers turned to jeers.
Now we have the fightback from the drivers of the iconic London black cabs. The problem is, what have they actually got to sue Uber over? What would be the real reason for launching such legal action? Uber has never operated without a licence. It got its licence back, provisionally, after accepting blame and changing the way it works.
It specifically now makes a point of having a new board to oversee corporate governance, and most importantly, has a system where complaints about drivers are fed straight through to the authorities rather than hushed up.
I suspect that what we have here is a news story getting out too soon -- potentially on purpose -- in a form that makes it look more of a PR stunt than a real-life court case waiting to happen.
I have no insider knowledge whatsoever. What I believe happened is the LTDA has sought to pacify its angry members by taking a meeting or two with the top legal firm, just to see if there is a case for Uber to answer. Someone who doesn't want them to now back down, or at least wants cab drivers to know the meetings have taken place, has leaked the news of the possible action.
It could have been someone at the LTDA or anyone associated with the source of funding Sky News says the trade body is considering using. It could have been the legal firm itself, but that's unlikely given their code of never discussing clients.
Someone wants word to get out there that black cab drivers are thinking of taking a shot at suing Uber. But that is just about where the story starts and ends.
I'm no legal expert but Uber has always operated with a licence from TfL, so it's hard to imagine how the trade body representing their arch-rivals has a legitimate basis for court action. Drivers may have lost some earnings but this was done under license from the proper authority.
It's unlikely that grounds to sue Uber exist, and this is an initial meeting that has been spun into a story by someone who either wants to put the LTDA in a position where it's harder to back down or at least wants to show black cab drivers their trade body is doing something, even if it doesn't extend beyond a legal chat over tea and biscuits.
it's an unwelcome story for Uber to read today, particularly considering it is planning to float next year and would, no doubt, love the London story to go quiet.
Other than that, you can call this a leak or a stunt but I very much doubt it is the start of the mammoth legal case it may at first appear to be.