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UK's Supreme Court says Uber drivers are employees
by Paul Hill
The UK's Supreme Court has ruled that a group of Uber drivers, 25 in all, who took Uber to an employment tribunal, are to be considered employees of the firm rather than self-employed. For the time being, the employed status only applies to this group who brought the case but it could have a wider impact on the gig economy where people essentially perform piece work without other benefits that employees enjoy such as sick pay.
The case, which was finally settled today by the UK’s Supreme Court, has been going on for around five years now. It was initially played out at a London employment tribunal which found that the drivers were entitled to paid holidays and rest breaks but Uber appealed the decision so the case progressively went through higher and higher courts.
Britain’s 60,000 Uber drivers will not see any change to their employment status for quite a while yet, among the 25 who brought the case, details about their employment will need to be worked out over the next several months, it could even be the case that another employment tribunal hearing is needed to work out how much money is owed to the drivers.
Commenting on the results, judge George Leggatt said:
Uber has faced calls to make drivers employees in other countries too; Californians recently voted to keep gig economy drivers as contractors rather than employees after Uber and Lyft poured more than $200 million into a campaign to keep the existing regime.
Source: UK Supreme Court via Reuters
Virgin Media study calls for more tech investment in the UK
by Paul Hill
The broadband provider Virgin Media has published a new study that calls for the UK to invest more money in digital technology to boost the economy by £232 billion (6.9%) by 2040. The study was written in collaboration with the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR).
The new study was done to help examine ways that technology can support the UK’s economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic. While COVID-19 has sped up the adoption of digital solutions, the report’s authors believe that there's still a lot more that could be done. Investment in services and infrastructure could boost the economy by £75 billion, investment in digital health and social care could be worth £33 billion, and changes to justice, central and local government could be worth another £32 billion.
Commenting on the report, Director of Economic Analysis at CEBR Cristian Niculescu-Marcu said:
By investing more money into digital technology, it’s expected that the productivity of the workforce would increase by enabling people to work from home, access to services would be increased, meaning people could more easily educate themselves while businesses can get things done faster. Richer data will be available for AI and analysts which could help the economy in other ways, too.
UK court to decide whether Uber drivers are employees
by Paul Hill
The UK’s Supreme Court will reveal whether Uber drivers are to be considered employees or self-employed next Friday, according to a Reuters report. If the drivers are considered to be Uber’s employees it will mean that they’ll be entitled to things such as a minimum wage, paid holidays and rest breaks.
The decision next week is the culmination of several appeals by the ride-hailing firm after a London-based employment tribunal said that Uber drivers were employees back in 2016. At the time, Labour MP Jack Dromey said that Uber would fundamentally have to rethink how they operate – it’s still not clear what Uber would propose or how it would affect the thousands of Uber drivers.
According to Reuters, even after the decision is made public next Friday, it could still take several more months until the decision takes force because another employment tribunal hearing will need to take place to work out how the decision works in practice.
Since the decision in 2016, Uber has faced a similar challenge in California where the public got a vote on the matter. The ride-hailing firm ploughed money into the campaign and as a result, the public voted to keep app-based drivers classified as self-employed contractors rather than employees.
O2 hit with £10.5 million fine for overcharging customers
by Paul Hill
The UK communications regulator Ofcom has slapped O2 with a £10.5 million fine for overcharging mobile customers who were leaving. An Ofcom investigation launched in 2019 found that for eight years, from 2011, O2 had been double charging some people in their final bill.
According to Ofcom’s investigation, more than 250,000 customers had been hit by the over-billing but only 140,000 actually paid for the extra charges. Ofcom said that O2 has been refunding customers an additional 4%. In the cases where O2 couldn’t reach a customer, it donated the equivalent amount to charity. If you’ve been affected and have proof, Ofcom advises that you contact O2 directly.
Commenting on the matter, Ofcom’s Enforcement Director Gaucho Rasmussen said:
What’s shocking is that O2 knew this was going on back in 2011 but it failed to address the issue and carried on overcharging customers. The £10.5 million fine that Ofcom has collected will now be passed on to HM Treasury.
By Rich Woods
Microsoft's Surface Duo is coming to the UK, France, Germany, and Canada next week
by Rich Woods
Back in December, Microsoft announced that after four months on the U.S. market, it was finally going to bring its Surface Duo handset to other markets in early 2021. Now, pricing and availability is here, and the dual-screen device is coming to the UK, France, Germany, and Canada on February 18. To be clear, those were the four markets that were announced in December, so if you're in another region in Europe, it's unclear when you'll be able to get your hands on this.
In France and Germany, the price of the 128GB model is €1,549, while it's going to be £1,349 in the UK. For comparison, the Surface Duo starts at $1,399 here in the United States, although it's currently on sale for as low as $949. The 256GB model costs $100 more, and that's it's a similar model for other countries; for example, it's €1,649 in France and Germany.
The Surface Duo was originally announced back in October 2019, heralding Microsoft's return to the smartphone business. The company doesn't often actually call it a phone, but it was introduced to the world in a promo video where the device was revealed by it ringing from inside of a bag, and yes, the user answering a phone call. It wasn't supposed to arrive until holiday season 2020, and it was going to arrive alongside the Surface Neo.
But things changed. The Surface Neo was delayed, as was the Windows 10X operating system, and Surface Duo shipped early.
It comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, which was the company's flagship chipset two generations ago now, and as has been widely criticized, it's a 4G phone. It also comes with an 11MP f/2.0 camera and 6GB of RAM. As for the two displays, which is really the selling point, it has dual 5.6-inch 1800x1350 screens, which are 4:3. They combine for an 8.1-inch 2700x1800 display, and of course, the device has Surface Pen support.
You can check out the Surface Duo on the UK Microsoft Store here, for France here, Germany here, and Canada here.