Uber loses license to operate in London

Updated: No more ride-hailing in the Big Smoke, it seems.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer
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Uber is no longer allowed to operate in London, a decision which is likely to be a cause celebration for traditional taxi firms.

On Friday, the UK Transport for London authority issued a statement, in which the organization said the ride-hailing service's license will not be renewed after it expires on September 30.

The transport regulator claims that Uber is "not fit and proper" to hold a private hire operator license, required by law in the UK for taxis, chauffeur services, and vehicles for hire with public carriage rights.

"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 and security implications," the TFL said.

Among these issues are Uber's approach to reporting serious criminal offenses, its approach to how medical certificates are obtained, and how Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are performed, according to the regulator.

In addition, TFL mentioned the use of GreyBall, a program used in the United States to track, monitor, and circumvent regulators in areas where Uber may not have been fully legal.

This program included "tagging" passengers believed to be law enforcement or government representatives in order to send them fake data on the availability of rides, credit card checks to unmask links to police credit unions, and providing managers with how-to guides on how to dance around regulators and law enforcement.

Uber is allowed to appeal the decision in the next 21 days and is allowed to operate until its license expires at the end of this month.

"I want London to be at the forefront of innovation and new technology and to be a natural home for exciting new companies that help Londoners by providing a better and more affordable service," said Sadiq Khan, London Mayor. "However, 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."

"I fully support TFL's decision -- it would be wrong for TFL to continue to license Uber if there is in any way that this could pose a threat to Londoners' safety and security," Khan added.

Traditional black cabs in the city are likely to smile over the decision, as the app-based ride-hailing service has been a cause of controversy. Many taxi firms, not only in London but internationally, have complained that Uber's business model has caused them a loss of revenue.

For Uber, however, the decision is simply the latest disaster that the company has to manage. Uber recently changed its CEO, and has had to deal with the exodus of executives, the firing of over 20 employees over sexual harassment allegations, criticism of the firm's practices during President Trump's travel ban, as well as regulatory investigations into the GreyBall program in this year alone.

Update 12.13BST:

An Uber spokesperson told ZDNet:

"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.

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."

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