Ouch: Uber’s London License Has Been Revoked

It was announced today that Uber’s license for operating in London won’t be renewed once the current one expires on September 30, 2017. Uber has 21 days to appeal the decision, and during that time they can continue to operate (that means they can potentially continue to operate until October 13, 2017).

Here’s Transport for London’s statement about their decision:

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 plans to appeal the decision, and Uber’s general manager for London said the following:

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.

This would be a huge development if it sticks. Fortunately London at least has (fairly) good public transportation, but even so, Uber has made a big difference every time I’ve visited London. I’ll be very curious to see if Uber has any luck appealing this decision.

What do you make of Transport for London not renewing Uber’s license?

Comments

  1. Good decision – Until Uber gets their corporate act together and learns to run a safe transportation company and not a “technology company.”

  2. For the people who like and use Uber, bad day.

    For the people who despise and don’t use Uber (for whatever reason), good day.

  3. What started as a ride sharing concept has turned into a taxi service industry. In the beginning, you can make extra money from commuting home-work-home by taking passenger along the rode. That’s the concept. It also minimize the amount of cars in the road. Nowdays, uber driver is a dedicated full time driver, just like a taxi, minus the standard regulation in taxi industry. No safety for passenger and driver in regulation. The friendliness and courtesy of the driver has long dissipated due to working demands. Uber is no longer what it is supposed to be. Time to sell the stocks…

  4. The general manager’s response encapsulates everything wrong with that company – instead of acknowledging their shortfalls and promising a more transparent approach, they’ve used the “our low prices justify all our business practices” BS line.

    It’s the same ole’ “let the market regulate itself” nonsense.

  5. Well, let’s get the scammers from black taxis back to work. They started accepting credit card because of Uber. Oh, but for some “unknown” reason their credit card machines never work when you get to your destination.

  6. I’m a user of Uber, but this is the right decision until they sort out their many issues (only some of them listed there in the TFL statement).

    Maybe this will push them in the right direction.

  7. Probably a good decision, considering that TfL is stating that Uber isn’t complying with passenger safety standards. Take Uber’s disruptor status away from the conversation for a moment. Let’s say the FAA grounded Southwest flights after not complying with safety standards. I doubt we’d be debating whether or not that’s a good thing…

    And Ben, your claim that London has only “fairly good public transportation” baffles me. Having lived there in the past, I have firsthand experience at how fantastic TfL is. I lived in Marylebone and commuted about 20 miles outside the city everyday. My tube ride was only about 25-30 minutes. Now I live in San Diego where a similar commute could take well over an hour, with multiple connections. If London’s public transportation is only “fairly good”, I’d be curious to know the gold standard.

  8. @josh vehicle safety standards are addressed with the vehicle registration and inspection, and should be the same for all passenger vehicles, commercial or personal.

  9. Not a fan of Mayor Khan or his policies, and this action stinks of labor union protectionist.

    That said it’s the right thing to do. Uber has long since stopped being a part time gig company, and it’s time they grew up and faced the facts that they are a global taxi company with many full time employees.

    Somebody taking the family sedan out to earn money on the weekend is very different fish from a full time driver.

    The free market is wonderful thing, best thing the government can do is insure that the playing field is level and then get out of the way. Right now the playing field is not level, there need to be a minimum standard (back ground checks, vehicle inspections, insurance, etc, etc) that companies need to meet for full time drivers.

  10. @anon

    Considering that a commercial vehicle will often be driven more than a personal vehicle tighter inspections are probably need.

    Inspection standards in Europe is based on time and not distance driven.

  11. As a regular traveler to London, I almost never use Uber. The London Transportation system is one of the best. I can get almost anywhere in London in 20 minutes or less. London is also one of the few cities where I use the actual Taxi’s. Drivers have always been friendly and of course knowledgeable. They still don’t use GPS and know just where to go when you tell them. In my home city of San Francisco, I will only use Lyft. Like so many others Ubers corporate policies make me only use them when I absolutely have to.

  12. What is not clear is whether this includes Uber Black which are licensed and regulated drivers. I only typically use the black car service in London anyway as it is often close to the price of a black cab and I don’t get the dirty looks or, “my machine is broken” when I try to pay by CC.

  13. Never understood the anti-Uber movement. If you don’t like it, don’t use it. Taxis still exist. Cars for hire still exist. I personally prefer the cleaner car and friendlier driver than any taxi I’ve been in the last few years.

  14. Interesting to me is that American Express is still sticking with them despite the ongoing (growing) list of problems. It seemed like a dumb niche play when they set up those credits as a new benefit for the Amex Plat card last year, and the complication of the credits only being able to be earned incrementally. It certainly didn’t (doesn’t) appeal to me.

  15. @ No Name

    “Not a fan of Mayor Khan or his policies, and this action stinks of labor union protectionist.”

    Since black cab drivers – the most vociferous opponents of Uber – are self-employed, I’m struggling to think which trade union you think the London Mayor is protecting?

    Lucky: I’m also mystified by what global megacity is your benchmark provider of “good” public transport. For all its many faults, and the cost, London is pretty good. Though I suspect you aren’t entirely sure since you rarely use it, preferring Ubers…?

  16. This is going to make my trips to London much more difficult and may even cause me to spend less time in London.

    I completely respect cab drivers, but taxis are expensive. I really appreciate that there is a cheap, easy to use form of transportation that is similar to that of Uber.

    Are there any hopes that alternative ride sharing apps can be developed to help consumers save money?

    Also, I have issues with the way that authorities in London were against Uber pool. If people want to pool together, I don’t think it is problematic. I use Uber pool a lot in the U.S.

  17. @Paul

    Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association and Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain’s private hire drivers’ branch?

    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/sep/22/uber-licence-transport-for-london-tfl

    Call it a labor union or existing monopoly, the taxi industry and the taxi drivers have been very much again change.

    Frankly biggest thing about Uber is the ability to pay by credit cards not in the car, have had cases of friends cards being cloned in other European countries where taxis take cards. My sympathies are quite low when it comes to an service industry where the work wants to be paid in cash when the calendar shows 2017.

  18. Very surprised by how pleased people are with the London transport system. Londoners are generally not pleased with it, with delays and suspensions as part of their lives. Transport system in London cannot be compared with a number of other European cities, let alone Asian countries.
    I have however never failed to tap my credit card and pay for my black cab fares.
    Uber should step up with their games to protect their customers. Perhaps they should separate professional drivers from leisure drivers?

  19. @jack
    Your statement of “If you don’t like it, don’t use it.” Clearly shows how ignorant your mindset is. Unregulated method of transportation contributes to traffic congestion, which already a problem in big cities including london.

  20. Poor choice personally.

    I have always hated regular taxi’s and found them ever more shady than uber. Uber came along and made things great offering better fares after being ripped off for years.

    Regular taxi drivers are just as risky as uber drivers who cares if they are checked once in a lifetime for a license, they could still be a crazy weirdo.
    I have always hated that CC machines always seem to be broken taxi’s, so they never have to declare the wages they earned on that ride.

    Taxi’s got a way with ripping off people for years and now someone comes along with a great plan, they protest and don’t want to loose their money.

  21. Fact is TfL has banned Uber (for now) but this shouldn’t actually make a iota of difference, Uber just need to start registering drivers outside Greater London and in a different area, any other area, they’re still free to pick up anywhere in London, so this makes absolutely no difference. What’s the hoo haa?

  22. How can someone support Uber? It literally has no morals or ethics or respect for law of the land or does not care for well being of its drivers. It refuses to acknowledge them as its employees . The company acts as-if it were a frat house. Never hired Uber and never will

  23. @anon – I’ll take a real driver with the Knowledge over a gps in London any day.

    @Gordon – you have to understand the perspective of many of the readership here. This blog is US-centric. The VAST majority of US cities have little to no functional public transport, so we see what Londoners have as a good thing. When you look at the system from that mindset, delays on the Tube due to a signal failure or the Circle Line being…well, the Circle Line…are (almost) inconsequential. Personally, even with its faults (which are plenty), I find transport in London to be terrific overall.

    Speaking of which – how often do you take public transit anywhere, Lucky? London’s system is good. Where do you find to have good public transport? Honestly – while you can argue there are better systems in Europe and Asia, transport in London competes anywhere in the world as a good system – and is light years beyond the vast majority of transit systems in the US.

    But to the topic at hand – I’ve never had an occasion to use Uber in London, though in times past after an evening out, it certainly would have been handy. I do think Uber does need to grow up – its gone from sharing the occasional ride into town to a being full-time job for some. When companies get to the big leagues, there are big league responsibilities. Perhaps a little more transparency on their part would help to solve this issue.

  24. @No Name agree heartily.

    One one hand this has a strong whiff of Sadiq Khan caving to a monopolistic Taxi union, and is frustrating as hell for those of us that spend much of our time in London.

    On the other hand Uber really does have only itself to blame for the appalling corporate practices that triggered this (the TfL notice even specifically cited the use of their “greyball” software to target its political enemies). It is high time they began taking responsibility for their actions and behaving as a properly regulated transportation company.

    I suspect they will have to significantly modify their practices to win this appeal. If they don’t then in the short term consumers will lose but a similar service that complies with more of TfL’s demands will step in in no time. One of the largest transportation markets in the world is in play here.

  25. I love how people here are complaining as if Uber is the only option for transportation. Even if you’re loath to use cabs or public transit, there are always other options such as Taxify that are available in London.

  26. @ No Name

    “Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association and Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain’s private hire drivers’ branch?”

    Exactly, I’m afraid your ignorance (I mean that in the technical, not pejorative, sense) of London is showing through here.

    The LTA is an association of the self-employed – *not* a trade union. Anyone who knows cabbies will stereotype them as being more likely to be reactionary right-wingers rather than commie lefties.

    But citing IWGB really shows your lack of understanding. IWGB is actually made up of people such as Uber drivers – their press reaction states:

    “This is a devastating blow for 30,000 Londoners who now face losing their job and being saddled with unmanageable vehicle related debt. To strip Uber of its license after five years of laissez faire regulation is a testament to a systemic failure at TfL. Rather than banish Uber, TfL should have strengthened its regulatory oversight, curbed runaway licensing and protected the worker rights of drivers.”

    Quite why you think Mayor Khan is caving in to IWGB when IWGB is pro-Uber is a mystery to me.

    Are you sure you’ve understood? Or was it just a knee-jerk reaction that everything the London Mayor does must be left-wing (and pro-Muslim)?

  27. I truly love what Uber has generally done with their ride sharing service
    But as much as I would hate to see them leave London for so many reasons
    I agree with what the Mayor has mandated
    Safety and proper insurance number one
    Background check of driver is imperative
    Uber is simply not transparent nor are they fair to customers should they have a problem
    and sometimes grossly negligent
    They shouldn’t be above the law and need to take ownership of the key issues reasonably of what the government is requesting and take care of issues with customer service and their empty canned responses that are simply unresponsive
    Their ex CEO shows me who and what their core values are all about and sadly the poison stills remain in the company.I’m ready to go with Lyft where they operate
    as Uber and their business behavior (No reflection of their many very good drivers) turn my stomach

  28. I spent thousands of dollars in London this year for Uber Lux. New chaffeured S classes and the drivers always had impeccable service. Thanks to Uber, I was paying less than half the rate that the companies charge if you book directly with them. It never took more than a minute or two to get one as well….

    It’s very annoying that they canceled Uber. I definitely am not going to those black cabs. Their service is nowhere near as good as Uber, and they cost far more too.

  29. @Lucky The wife and I are set to arrive at Heathrow on Christmas Day this year. We normally take Heathrow Express or the tube. Neither of these options are available during the holiday. We were planning on taking Uber, if they are not available what is our next best option?

    Black Cab to the central London would run about £80 and a private hire would be well over £100.

    I am assuming we won’t find anything in the £40 range uber estimates?

  30. ‘Fortunately London at least has (fairly) good public transportation’

    I’m afraid is yet another example of Lucky’s antipathy towards Britain and all things British. Remember BA’s cramped Club World layout is an issue but not the fact that his beloved Lufty were 10 years behind the curve when it came to flat beds in Business. BA First is cramped but we didn’t hear the same when Lufty had 2×2 seating in First.

  31. Gordon – London has a world-class public transport system. The reason why Londoners moan about it all the time is due to ignorance of alternative systems (and no, trying them out briefly one time on holiday doesn’t give a reliable comparison) and the British (and in fairness, increasingly global) desire to complain about literally anything!

  32. London’s public transport system is great when it’s working. I always joke (though it’s actually true) that when you enter a Tube station, there’s a permantly-mounted board or screen listing which lines are facing issues or delays that day. It’s not just a temporary sign hauled out when needed, since there’s an issue every day. I can’t think of any other public transport system where such a sign needs to be permanent.

  33. So what happens if the “credit card machine is broken” and you only have a credit card on you?

    In New Zealand if you accept credit card and the machine is broken and you don’t know own a manual voucher system then the consumer is under no obligation to pay cash.

  34. The misunderstanding of UK law is shocking. TfL do not have jurisdiction over who can be picked up in or outside Greater London. If Uber are going to fall folly to this ruling they are really shockingly misinformed. It was a surprise in itself when PCO stickers started appearing in Uber cars a few years ago, they do not need this, now they think TfL has any jurisdiction over them: they need better lawyers.
    If anyone has a problem then please for ***** sake realise that £35 is reasonable to drop someone 23 miles away and £100 is not. Uber is the only company in London who offers sensible prices over medium distances. If there was an alternative I wouldn’t care, but seeing as they’re not I’d rather see black cabs banned for extortion of customers.

  35. Any one thinking that this is black cabs vs Uber needs to take a breather and understand a bit more about how things work in London. There have always been taxis and private hire vehicles (minicabs). Minicabs started being licensed in the late 90s. Uber operates a minicab booking service therefore, to be legal, they have to comply with certain laws includig ensuring that their drivers are not felons and drive safe insured vehicles. They refused to do this and had their license revoked.

    Their will continue to be minicabs and although a lot of drivers lost their jobs ( not that Uber sees it that way, ‘independent contractors’) plenty of other services will pick up the drivers who are fit and proper people to operate minicabs. The demand is there, the supply is there and the market will sort it out, minus an unscrupulous actor. I’m sure Uber will consider whether it wants to clean up its act or abandon what is presumably a very lucrative market.

    @realw1 you need a pic sticker if you are carrying people for money in London or the equivalent for whatever other jurisdiction.

  36. I think ultimately TfL is just sending a message! Uber is not going anywhere where London is concerned.

    As for London’s public transport system… the locals may moan, but they are forgetting how many millions the system serves and what pressure that puts on a system which is constantly expanding! You only have to look at the tube map over the last 15 years and you will see the growth! CrossRail 1 hasn’t even opened and CrossRail 2 is already in development. And there is, of course, an extremely extensive bus network amongst other modes of transport.

    Yes, of course it could be better, there is always room for improvement in everything! But I’d like to see what people would do without it!

  37. @Gordon – London’s public transport is second to none. The grass is not greener overseas so next time take off rose tinted glasses and speak to locals.

    This summer, for example, been plagued by delays on Deutsche Bahn from a few minutes to 12 hours!

    Yesterday travelled from Spain to Portugal by train:

    1. Spanish train was replaced by taxis for some unexplained reason.

    2. The Portuguese train was 50 minutes late.

    Last time in Paris Metro ground to a halt due to a security alert – not a pleasant experience, especially when combined with the urine smelling station where we halted.

    I could go on and on….. London on the whole has a good public transport system, there are gaps and challenges, where millions of people live life without Uber.

    I feel there is a modicum of a sense of entitlement to this argument and basic snobbishness of people thinking they are too good for public transport.

  38. @No Name

    I’m afraid you’re barking up the totally wrong tree when you suggest our Mayor is caving to ‘union action’ as our licensed black cab drivers have no union due to being self employed. Moreover, as a constitency, they tend to be very right wing too so he’s not doing it for votes either as he doesn’t have a hope of attracting them.

    This decision has been taken by the leadership of TFL because of safety concerns. Last night a guy from Uber was on the news last night and he argued that consumers instinctively know what’s safe and what isn’t.

    Black cabs, for example, are tightly regulated and have to be checked every year or it may be less. Their drivers have to take the ‘knowledge’ an exam that takes years to pass.

    Whilst I don’t know about Uber, before jumping to conclusions, why don’t you check the reason with TFL before jumping to incorrect conclusions? I can neither promote nor condemn Uber because I don’t know the details. However, I do know that Black Cabs are tightly controlled.

  39. “fairly good public transportation”

    Are u kidding me Ben? London has one the BEST public transportation systems in the world LOL.

    Come on.

  40. In many countries I have found the local taxi drivers to be scammers looking to rip tourists off and I have had to resort to using services such as Uber or Grab in order not to be taken advantage of. Somehow I doubt London is doing this out of their concern for passengers.

  41. @ Bill

    Fascinating!

    So what, exactly, is your theory?

    TfL and its predecessors have a good record, going back more than a *century*, in efficiently regulating London’s transport. That’s a long track record.

    You, on the other hand, are some near-anonymous keyboard warrior, countering on the web. But you have a theory about their motivation in making this decision about Uber?

    Let’s hear it. I’m sure it’ll be right.

  42. For all those who think Uber are just innocent victims of political manoeuvres, here’s what Uber has now said in response to losing their London licence:

    “Dara Khosrowshahi, who succeeded Uber founder Travis Kalanick as CEO a month ago, wrote in an open letter: “While Uber has revolutionised the way people move in cities around the world, it’s equally true that we’ve got things wrong along the way. On behalf of everyone at Uber globally, I apologise for the mistakes we’ve made.

    ““We will appeal [against] the decision on behalf of millions of Londoners, but we do so with the knowledge that we must also change.””

    Source: guardian.co.uk

  43. @Ben, what is your benchmark for “good” public transportation? I would say London has the best system in the world, not a “(fairly) good” system. This is especially true when taking into account how the Tube and Overground connect with suburban, regional and inter-city trains as well as buses and London Trams/Light Rail. It also has the most advanced payment system in the world with travellers able to use Oyster, Apple Pay or Contactless debit or credit cards to pay on ALL forms of transit (Tube, Overground, buses, trams, regional trains). Having lived in both NYC and London, it is fair to say that London is 100 years ahead of NYC in terms of transit. Heathrow has four options of public transit to get into central London (the Tube, Heathrow Express (15 mins), Heathrow Connect or the bus). From 2018, the Crossrail/Elizabeth Line will add a fifth option, providing a 25 minute ride from the airport to Bond Street in central London. All of London’s six international airports have quick and efficient public transit options (Gatwick, for example, is served by three different regional train operators). LaGuardia literally only has the bus and JFK has no one-seat ride to Manhattan, which is a joke.

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