In a major blow to Uber, London's transport regulator announced today that it will not renew the US-based ride-hailing app firms licence, citing "public safety and security implications". Transport for London (TfL) concluded that it does not believe Uber to be a "fit and proper" operator as a taxi company for the streets of London. Uber's licence to operate in the British capital will expire on September 30.
"TfL has concluded that Uber London Limited is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence," TfL said. "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," the regulator said in a statement. TfL said that it was particularly concerned about Ubers' approach to reporting serious criminal offences and its approach to how medical certificates are obtained, among other things.
Meanwhile, Uber said it will challenge the decision, which shows the world that "far from being open, London is closed to innovative companies". The 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, it said. Under the UK's Private Hire Vehicles Act of 1998, Uber now has 21 days to appeal and can continue to operate until that process expires.
The California-based company, which was founded over eight years ago, has been faced with intense criticism in the UK over claims that it unfairly skews competition and that it has not done enough to crackdown on incidents of violence involving its drivers. London Mayor Sadiq Khan said in a statement: "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".
"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. "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," he said. Providing an innovative service must not be at the expense of customer safety and security, Khan said.
The UK's Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA), which has been one of the most vocal critics of Uber in London, said that TfL had put public safety first. "Since it first came onto our streets, Uber has broken the law, exploited its drivers and refused to take responsibility for the safety of passengers," said Steve McNamara, LTDA general secretary. "We expect Uber will again embark on a spurious legal challenge against the Mayor and TfL, and we will urge the court to uphold this decision. This immoral company has no place on Londons streets," he said.
The GMB workers union also welcomed Uber's "defeat". "No company can behave like its above the law and that includes Uber. No doubt other major cities will be looking at this decision and considering Uber's future on their own streets," a GMB statement said. The decision will come as a blow to the thousands of drivers working for Uber. Uber said: "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".
One driver with Uber in London said: "I dont think it is a fair decision. Uber offers a flexible schedule, and a weekly income." On social media, a fierce debate has broken out over the decision.
An online petition launched by Uber urging the Mayor of London to reverse the decision to strip its London licence has been signed by tens of thousands of people in the space of a few hours, the BBC reported.
The company has already been forced to quit several countries including Denmark and Hungary and has faced regulatory battles in multiple US states and countries around the world.