Top News Stories ~ 26th April – 2nd May 2021

This week’s top news stories include: Self-driving vehicles allowed on UK roads, Fortnite faces Apple in court, Teletext Holidays faces legal action, Deliveroo and Waitrose strike a delivery deal, and more.

Legally Possible’s top news story of the week: Self-driving vehicles to be allowed on UK roads (point 2)

1. FORNITE FACES APPLE IN COURT

The battle between Apple and Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, will begin in court this week. Apple removed Epic Games off the App Store after they launched their own in-app payment system, bypassing the Apple App Store system which takes a 30% cut of all in-app purchases. Epic launched legal action against Apple after this, making claims of anti-competitive behaviour.

Google has a 30% charge for in-app purchases, the same as Apple. Epic will argue in court that both Apple and Google are abusing their market position by charging extremely large fees and have a monopoly in the app space. Apple has generated over $100 million from Epic Games alone from in-app charges.

It is expected that Apple will argue that the 30% charge is market standard, and part of these fees go toward the vetting process the App Store completes to prevent fraud. Apple has also countered Epic’s allegations by arguing its App Store rules have made consumers feel safe and secure in paying money to unknown developers, helping create a massive market from which all developers have benefited.

The chief executive of “Fortnite” creator Epic Games testified on Monday that he knew he was breaking Apple Inc’s App Store rules by putting Epic’s own in-app payment system into the game last year but wanted to highlight Apple’s monopoly over the world’s iPhone users, which now total 1 billion.

THOUGHTS AND IMPLICATIONS

If Apple loses, this could disrupt the App Store model for both Apple and Google, and subsequent their profits. Whether Epic will succeed or not remains to be seen, but all will be determined by the end of May when the trial is concluded.

Image: Epic Games

2. ‘SELF-DRIVING’ VEHICLES TO HIT UK ROADS

Legally Possible’s top news story of the week!

‘Self-driving’ vehicles could be allowed on UK roads as early as the end of this year, the government has announced.

The definition of ‘self-driving’ however has caused quite a stir, as insurers warn the government’s definition of automated lane-keeping systems (ALKS) is misleading. The Department for Transport has said ALKS will be the first type of hands-free driving legalised, which keeps the car within lanes in cruise control up to a maximum speed of 37mph. In addition, whilst drivers will not be required to actively monitor the road, they will need to be alert as they must take control within 10 seconds if requested to. If a driver fails to respond, the vehicle will automatically put on its hazard lights, slow down and eventually stop.

“Aside from the lack of technical capabilities, by calling ALKS automated our concern also is that the UK government is contributing to the confusion and frequent misuse of assisted driving systems that have unfortunately already led to many tragic deaths”, said Matthew Avery, director of research at Thatcham Research.

The government has said that vehicles with ALKS technology will be able to be defined as “self-driving”, as long as they “receive GB type approval and that there is no evidence to challenge the vehicles ability to self-drive”.

THOUGHTS AND IMPLICATIONS

There still remains significant concerns over the safety of ‘self-driving’ vehicles. Concerns include what would happen if a driver was to fall asleep at the wheel of the vehicle, and how safe they really are.

It is however expected that these vehicles will reduce the number of serious accidents on the road by simply reducing human error, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said in a statement – “Automated driving systems could prevent 47,000 serious accidents and save 3,900 lives over the next decade through their ability to reduce the single largest cause of road accidents – human error”.

Tesla’s “Autopilot” system uses lane technology similar to ALKS. It is considered “level two” on the five defined levels of self-driving cars.

The next step is level three, which would not need the driver’s attention at all times, unless the car prompts them to take over again.

Evidently, the main danger is that calling vehicles with ALKS “self-driving” will make motorists over confident, and could result in more accidents.

Photograph: Fabio De Paola/PA

3. UBER TO HIRE 20,000 DRIVERS

Uber has announced that they will hire 20,000 UK drivers by the end of the year, in anticipation of a surge in travel as lockdown restrictions ease. Since rules have eased so far since 12th April, Uber has seen a 50% increase in rides already, and is only expected to increase further. This hiring spree will result in Uber having 90,000 drivers in the UK.

Following the Supreme Court ruling that Uber drivers were in fact workers, and not self-employed contractors as Uber had always claimed, drivers are now entitled to basic employment rights such as holiday pay, pensions and minimum wage. This was a huge blow to the gig worker economy.

Mick Rix, national officer of the GMB trade union, said: “Uber is trying to signal the horrendous collapse of the private hire minicab sector brought about by the pandemic is coming to an end. Now Uber has committed to treating its workers fairly, granting them the rights to which they are legally entitled, this can only be good for the beleaguered private hire sector.”

THOUGHTS AND IMPLICATIONS

Due to drivers now being recognised as workers, this may act as a huge incentive for people to join the company.

All Uber drivers must go through an enhanced background check (called DBS) and hold a valid private hire license from their local authority. Passengers can also see the drivers name, photo, vehicle make and model, as well as their license plate and private-hire license number. This suggests Uber could be much safer than other means of public transport or taxis.

Photo: PA Wire/PA Images

4. TELETEXT HOLIDAYS FACES COURT

Teletext Holidays, a British travel company, face legal action unless it can refund £7m to customers who had their holidays cancelled due to the covid-19 pandemic. It is required by law for people to receive refunds they were owed within 14 days for any package holidays that were cancelled, which has not happened.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has echoed that this delay is “unacceptable”. CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “There must be no more delays to Teletext refunding customers for holidays they could not take because of the pandemic. It is unacceptable that many have already waited months for the refunds they are legally entitled to. We take very seriously the ongoing failure of Teletext Holidays to meet its obligations”.

Meanwhile, the CMA has previously secured refund commitments from companies including LoveHolidays, Lastminute.com, Virgin Holidays and TUI UK. LoveHolidays agreed to refund more than £18m to over 44,000 customers who had their holidays cancelled due to the pandemic. Lastminute.com also agreed to pay £7m in refunds to more than 9,000 customers earlier this year.

Photo: Heathrow Stock

5. DELIVEROO AND WAITORSE STRIKE TWO-YEAR DEAL

After a successful trial last year, Deliveroo and Waitrose have agreed a delivery deal to provide grocery deliveries. If customers are within the delivery catchment area, they will be able to get groceries delivered from a range of 750 – 1,000 products in 20 minutes, which will cost between £2.50 – £4.99. It is expected that this deal will create 400 jobs.

As well as partnering with Deliveroo, Waitrose has expanded its network to handle 240,000 orders a week, four times more than before the pandemic, and has ramped up fast-track grocery deliveries through its two-hour Rapid service, which operates from 28 stores.

THOUGHTS AND IMPLICATIONS

As a consequence of the pandemic, online shopping now accounts for 14% of the market, doubling in the last year. Deals like these highlight how supermarkets and companies plan to keep up with consumer demand.

The two-year partnership comes after Deliveroo’s stock market flotation on 31st March was not the success it had hoped to be, with shares falling by 26%. Deliveroo is under serious pressure to reverse mounting losses and to improve employment rights for riders. Since the recent Supreme Court ruling that Uber drivers were in fact workers and therefore entitled to employment rights, this has added more pressure on Deliveroo to give the same recognition to their own riders. Waitrose said it had held “lengthy discussions with Deliveroo” before the agreement and “received assurances about its self-employment model and its rider fees”.

M&S also tested out deliveries with Deliveroo, from its stores on BP petrol stations, but ended the relationship last year shortly before its partnership with Ocado launched, who were previously partnered with Waitrose.

Photograph: David Davies/PA

6. APPLE’S PROFITS DOUBLE

Soaring demand for iPhones have given Apple its best ever start to the year, with revenues rising 53%, beating forecasts on Wall Street to hit $89.6 billion, and net income doubling to $23.6 billion.

With the help from the release of the long-awaited iPhone 12 last autumn, Apple finished 2020 with its most profitable quarter ever, drove a 21% increase in revenue in the first quarter of 2021 and carried those successes into the second quarter.

THOUGHTS AND IMPLICATIONS

Apple is facing increased scrutiny from US lawmakers – along with other big tech companies like Google and Facebook – over possible antitrust violations. Epic Games are currently in the process of taking Apple to court over anti-competitive behaviour as Apple takes a 30% cut of all in-app purchases, which Epic believes to be an abuse of its market position. Whether this court case will result in Apple lowering its commission fees, and subsequently affect its yearly profits, remain to be seen.

Photo: Reuters/BBC

Thanks for reading! If you found this helpful, please do let me know by leaving a comment or reaching out to me on social media.

If you’re wondering how you can stay commercially aware, check out my blog post ‘How to Be Commercially Aware’. You can also check out my previous Weekly News Roundups here.

*Disclaimer – All views expressed on this site are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. All information provided aims to educate and has been cross-checked for accuracy, but this site accepts no responsibility for any discrepancies.

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A future trainee solicitor encouraging and supporting social mobility, and showing you anything is possible.

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