22 September 2017
Transport For London has announced it will not renew Uber’s licence, saying the company is not “fit and proper” and should not be allowed to operate a private hire service. Uber has three weeks to appeal, a step it seems certain to take.
During the appeal period it will be able to continue to provide a service that has so far provided Londoners with tens of millions of journeys.
While there is no disputing Uber’s provision of a cheap, convenient disruption to black cabs, Uber’s critics have long questioned the company’s commitment to passenger safety and their approach to tax.
In London, Uber has some 40,000 drivers, but TfL has cited the company’s commitment to reporting crimes and to background checks.
Most intriguingly, TfL cites Uber’s reluctance to explain “Greyball” in London, software that TfL worries could be used to block or restrict the work of regulatory bodies.
In the U.S. Greyball has been reported as a tool Uber uses to deny transport officials access to the real Uber service: the charge is that Uber “greyballs” officials with a fake version of the app that allegedly denies them the real customer experience.
A global phenomenon, Uber is available in over 80 countries and over 650 cities around the world, performing tens of millions of rides every month. It has become a world-changing transportation company that doesn’t own a fleet of vehicles.
During their expansion they have been dogged with accusations about their aggressive business approach to competitors and the legally complex relationship they have with their drivers.
Uber has previously been alleged to engage in practices like flooding their competitors’ platforms with artificial requests. Critics worry that they are pushing down the incomes of workers.
London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has said of the decision: “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.”
Around 3.5 million Londoners use Uber, and the story is likely to dominate water cooler conversations. We also don’t yet know what the impact will be on services like Uber Eats, if any.
The Uber story is something of a Rorschach test for modern politics, a battle between protectionism and globalization, customer convenience and workforce conditions.
Given Uber’s size and popularity, it’s likely that they will heavily challenge TfL’s decision while making concessions and modifications to satisfy TfL’s concerns over security.
Source: GQ Magazine