Can Uber win the fight to keep its cars on the streets of London?

Whether you love or hate Uber, you have to admit the business model is a great success and they’ve done extremely well in London so far. However, last year Transport for London (TFL) revoked Uber’s license which, if we believe what we read, even came as a shock to Uber.

Londoners went into a frenzy, with Uber users quite vocal on their thoughts which mainly consisted of negativity towards TFL and London Mayor, Sadiq Kahn.

Twitter went into overdrive with one user saying “the decision was made by people that don’t use it, don’t understand the internet and clearly don’t understand the innovation.”  You certainly don’t need to be a user of Uber, or understand the internet, or the meaning of the word innovation to be able to spot when a company is breaking the rules.

However, the response from Londoners somewhat threw me. I for one am a lover of Uber and a regular user, but if a company is not compliant and has been seen to not be abiding by the rules and regulations put in place to protect people like myself, the consumer, then I whole heartedly agree that action needs to be taken. Yet, people came out in force to defend and justify Uber and I had to ask myself why… why would you support such shoddy practices? Oh yes, because they personally benefit from said practices with cheap fares.

Whether you are a one-man band, a firm of 100 drivers or a giant conglomerate like Uber, the same rules and regulations apply to all private hire operators in London. We have to remember that if TFL was to let Uber get away with not meeting the standards that others have to abide by, what message would that convey to its industry?

This also isn’t about removing the competition that some have claimed. Competition is a good thing but, it has to be an even playing field for all.

At the time there were claims of thousands of drivers who could potentially end up out of work. This simply isn’t true. There are thousands of other private hire operators who will be looking for drivers who could take on some of these drivers. To add to this, of those thousands of drivers, some will already be registered to other firms. It is also worth noting that Uber does not have all its drivers on the road at any one time and many have other jobs with Uber supplementing their normal work.

Over half of Uber drivers wrote to the Mayor last year asking for the decision to be reversed and hundreds of thousands of people signed a petition. I’m sure the efforts made by Uber, the drivers and the public will not be ignored but we mustn’t forget that we have had months, maybe years of controversy, including allegations of sexism and harassment by employees, sex attacks by drivers, regulatory battles all alongside an exodus of senior executives.

This week saw Uber’s licence renewal in Brighton and Hove turned down due to standards around the safety of residents and visitors being put at potential risk and also concerns over a data breach with the council deeming Uber as ‘not fit and proper’. Worth noting Uber has also recently been refused a licence to operate in York. On the other hand Uber has had its licence renewed this year in Cambridge, Nottingham, Leicester and Glasgow, so it’s not all doom and gloom for the taxi operator

As with all these things, we don’t 100 per cent know all the facts and what goes on behind closed doors. I would love to see Uber keep its license in London but not at risk of other people’s safety.

Uber is now facing a fight to keep its cars on the streets of London which is undoubtedly an important market for them. Since September it has made a number of changes to its business model in response to requests from regulators ahead of the court hearing and before the substance of the appeal is heard in June.

Let’s hope Uber continues to dominate the streets of London but that the management takes on board TFL’s words and acts with integrity in everything it does.  As the CEO said, “it needs to reflect and to build trust with its peers through better behaviour and action”.

Shelly Durrant
Account Director at Newgate


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