Uber London to lose operator licence after September

Monday, September 25, 2017

On Friday, Transport for London (TfL) announced US-based taxi booking application Uber would not get a renewed private hire operator license after their current permit expires at the end of the month. The regulatory body released an official statement on their website and stated Uber London Limited was "not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator license".

TfL said Uber London "demonstrate[d] a lack of corporate responsibility" for reporting serious criminal offences, and for obtaining background of the drivers and medical certificates. In August, police said Uber allowed a driver despite allegations of sexually assaulting a passenger. The company has been accused of sexism and bullying. TfL in its statement also complained about possible use of "greyball" software to prevent officials from accessing the application for law enforcement duties.

According to Uber's statistics, about 3.5 million people in London use Uber. There are some 40 thousand drivers tied with Uber within the British capital. Per the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998, Uber can appeal against TfL's decision within three weeks. Uber received an interim renewal for four months in May, and it is set to expire at the end of the month. To this announcement, Uber London's General Manager Tom Elvidge said, "By wanting to ban our app from the capital Transport for London and the Mayor have caved in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice. If this decision stands, it will put more than 40,000 licensed drivers out of work and deprive Londoners of a convenient and affordable form of transport. To defend the livelihoods of all those drivers, and the consumer choice of millions of Londoners who use our app, we intend to immediately challenge this in the courts." He also added, "This ban would show the world that, far from being open, London is closed to innovative companies who bring choice to consumers."

TfL said Uber's irresponsibility could compromise the safety and security of the public. In contrast, Uber's response said their service enhances safety. London mayor Sadiq Khan, on Facebook, said, "[...]all companies in London must play by the rules and adhere to the high standards we expect — particularly when it comes to the safety of customers. Providing an innovative service must not be at the expense of customer safety and security. 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. Any operator of private hire services in London needs to play by the rules."

Uber has received criticism from traditional taxi drivers as well as government officials. Uber was banned from Bulgaria and Denmark, and faces regulatory issues in France, Italy, Hungary, and Spain. It also faced legal inquiry for use of greyball in the US to resist government regulation of the application. Regarding the complaint about improper use of use of Greyball, Elvidge cited an independent review and said it "found that 'greyball' has never been used or considered in the UK for the purposes cited by TfL". Uber operates in over 40 cities and towns in the UK.