LONDON: Uber Technologies Inc’s licence to operate in London was revoked, a surprise decision that will affect the 3.5 million people and 40,000 drivers who use the app in the city.
The city’s regulator, Transport for London (TfL), says it denied the licence because Uber’s “approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility”.
The licence will expire on Sept 30, although the company has 21 days to appeal the ruling, and can carry on operating during the appeal process. “We intend to immediately challenge this in the courts,” says Tom Elvidge, general manager of Uber in London.
If the decision stands, it will have a considerable impact on the company’s global business. London is one of Uber’s most established markets.
City officials cited Uber’s use of a secret software tool called “Greyball” that the company built to avoid regulators. Uber was also faulted for not properly reporting crimes and obtaining medical certificates.“TfL has concluded that Uber London Ltd is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence,” the regulator says in a statement.
The decision is a victory for the city’s traditional black cab industry, which has been hurt by the proliferation of Uber drivers and has pushed for tighter regulation of the San Francisco-based ride-hailing service. Taxi drivers must go through extensive testing before receiving a license, while Uber drivers have fewer requirements.“I fully support TfL’s decision,” says London’s mayor Sadiq Khan. “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.”
London’s decision adds to the problems facing Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s new chief executive officer, who is juggling a host of controversies ranging from a lawsuit alleging the company stole self-driving car technology from Alphabet Inc, to a bribery investigation in Asia, to a boorish company culture.
Uber has faced protests and resistance in many markets around the world, but London’s ruling is one of the most aggressive steps taken by regulators against the popular service. The decision may also embolden regulators in other countries to take a tougher stand.
“No company can behave like it’s above the law, and that includes Uber,” says Maria Ludkin, legal director of GMB, the UK’s drivers union.
“No doubt other major cities will be looking at this decision and considering Uber’s future on their own streets.”
The city’s regulators and political leaders risk a backlash from customers who have come to rely on the Uber’s service, which is often cheaper and more convenient than hailing a black cab. — Bloomberg
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