Opinion: If Uber is worth what the investors claim, I’ll eat my brake pads

Uber licence not renewed in London

Ride-hailing company has 21 days to appeal

RIDE-HAILING firm Uber is “not fit and proper” to be a private hire operator, according to Transport for London (TfL), and its licence will not be renewed in the capital after it expires on September 30.

Uber’s approach and conduct demonstrated a lack of corporate responsibility which could have potential public safety and security implications, it said.

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The company, which has 3.5m customers and a network of around 40,000 drivers in the city, says it will appeal the decision. It said the move by TfL shows the world that “far from being open, London is closed to innovative companies.”

Uber has 21 days to appeal TfL’s decision, during which it can continue to operate.

Uber has courted much controversy. Founder Travis Kalanick stepped down as CEO in June 2017 after a series of scandals, including a “tirade” at a driver that was captured on video and led to him admitting he needed leadership help. In August this year, a female former employee blogged about a culture of sexism at its American headquarters, while in London drivers have been accused of selling drugs to customers and ganging up to trigger “surge pricing”.

In a statement, TfL said:  “Uber’s approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications. These include:

  • Its approach to reporting serious criminal offences.
  • Its approach to how medical certificates are obtained.
  • Its approach to how Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are obtained.
  • Its approach to explaining the use of Greyball in London — software that could be used to block regulatory bodies from gaining full access to the app and prevent officials from undertaking regulatory or law enforcement duties.”

Uber London Limited was licenced as a Private Hire Operator in 2012. On May 26, 2017, TfL granted a four-month licence whilst it concluded its consideration of a five year licence.

The Uber app allows customers to see nearby drivers and hail them, often cutting wait times. Costs are generally much lower than black cabs and even traditional minicabs, and drivers and passengers rate each other after the journey.

The convenience and affordability has enabled the company to expand quickly around the globe since its inception in 2009; it now operates in 76 countries and by May this year more than 5bn rides had been made.

Uber gave up its operations in China in July 2016, after a battle with rival (and local) operator Didi Chuxing. Uber left the country in exchange for 20% of the Didi Chuxing business, which has since gone global.

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Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said in a statement: “I fully support TfL’s decision — it would be wrong if TfL continued to license Uber if there is any way that this could pose a threat to Londoners’ safety and security.”

General secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association Steve McNamara said: “The mayor has made the right call not to relicense Uber. We expect Uber will again embark on a spurious legal challenge against the mayor and TfL, and we will urge the court to uphold this decision. This immoral company has no place on London’s streets.”