Keep calm. Uber will carry on in London.
Transport for London (TfL) has today (Friday 22 September) informed Uber London Limited that it will not be issued with a private hire operator licence after expiry of its current licence on 30 September.
TfL’s regulation of London’s taxi and private hire trades is designed to ensure passenger safety. Private hire operators must meet rigorous regulations, and demonstrate to TfL that they do so, in order to operate. TfL must also be satisfied that an operator is fit and proper to hold a licence.
TfL has concluded that Uber London Limited is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence.
TfL considers that 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.
The Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 includes provision to appeal a licensing decision within 21 days of it being communicated to the applicant. Uber London Limited can continue to operate until any appeal processes have been exhausted.
Uber Will Appeal
Uber will, of course, appeal the ruling.
3.5 million Londoners who use our app, and more than 40,000 licensed drivers who rely on Uber to make a living, will be astounded by this decision. 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.
That alone, according to the last sentence of the TfL press release, will mean Uber can continue to operate after 30 September.
But although this is a dramatic act on the part of TfL, it is mere pageantry. Don’t worry about it. I mean it. Uber will continue.
Why Uber Will Continue to Operate in London
Uber provides employment opportunities for 40,000 in London. Just as importantly, it provides a viable alternative to overpriced black cabs, many of them dishonest and scummy (I absolutely speak from experience).
News broke this morning and already 250,000 have signed a protest petition demanding that Uber’s license be renewed.
My family who lives in London uses Uber all the time. Friends in London use Uber every day. It is an innovative, safe, and affordable service, especially when the Tube does not operate 24/7.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn, simply doesn’t get it…or at least that is the public position he has chosen to take.
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.
Of course not, but that is far too simplistic a way to look at it. Uber employees the same methods of background checks that black cabbies are subjected to. Will there be bad Uber drivers and bad cabbies who slip by? Yes. Should Uber promptly report when criminality occurs? Of course.
But nearly everything in life represents a cost-benefit analysis of risk versus harm. Uber provides immense good to London. Even assuming (and Uber argues otherwise) the issues raised are valid, there are better ways to work out a solution than a ban.
The threat of not renewing the license is simply a way TfL will coerce Uber in more quickly addressing the problems it sees. That’s it. A political game. Don’t worry, you’re still going to be able to use Uber in London for months and years to come. It has become a presumed entitlement.
Check out commentary from View from the Wing as well. He’s right to express concern about the UK regulatory processes.