It’s been an eventful few days for ride-hailing service Uber. On Friday, Transport for London (TfL) announced that it was not granting a renewal of its operating licence, meaning that when its current licence expires on September 30, it will no longer be able to legally operate in the UK capital.
The repercussions of this are far reaching; for the 40,000 drivers currently working for Uber, it will mean their revenue stream will cease, and for the London citizens that use Uber, alternative, often more expensive modes of transport will have to be used.
It will also be another bump in the road for Uber which is already facing difficult times with allegations (and in some cases convictions (opens in new tab)) against drivers globally for sexual assault, and former CEO Travis Kalanick having recently been ousted following claims that he fostered a negative workplace culture.
But it looks like Uber is not taking the decision lying down. Almost immediately after the decision became public, Uber took to petition website Change.org (opens in new tab) to start corralling public support, and so far pretty successfully. At time of writing there are over 740,000 signatures calling for a reversal of the decision.
Adding to this, Uber has made statements to the popular broadsheet the Sunday Times (opens in new tab) that it was willing to make concessions, claiming that: “While we haven’t been asked to make any changes, we’d like to know what we can do. But that requires a dialogue we sadly haven’t been able to have recently.”
It does seem like the two organizations are talking at crossed purposes though, as TfL references the reporting process for serious crimes, background checks, and other safety concerns, while Uber is talking about “a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice”.
Taking to Twitter, Uber does directly address TfL’s concerns:
We have always followed TfL rules on reporting serious incidents, with a dedicated team that works closely with the Metropolitan Police.September 24, 2017
Which does seem to sit at odds to the statement made by Uber’s Head of Cities Fred Jones to BBC radio: “It’s just not clear for us what their concerns might be.”
The Uber Twitter account has been very active (as you might image) in the last few days, using emotive language to talk about keeping driver’s “livelihoods safe and secure”, reminding us that “3.5 million Londoners are able to track their driver’s arrival in-app and know their car is just around the corner,” as well as showing its intent to take to the courts to defend itself:
We intend to challenge this in the courts to defend the livelihoods of drivers & the consumer choice of millions of Londoners who use Uber.September 24, 2017
In response to Uber’s legal strategy, chairman of TfL and London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said to the BBC (opens in new tab): "What you can't do, is have a situation where unfair pressure is brought on a quasi-judicial body where there are officials working incredibly hard.
"I appreciate Uber has an army of PR experts, I appreciate Uber has an army of lawyers - they've also made aggressive threats about taking us to court."
Bringing out the big guns
And the person that Uber is using to take on TfL is interesting too. According to The Telegraph (opens in new tab), it is using barrister Thomas de la Mare, who has a history of beating TfL in court on Uber’s behalf.
Earlier in the year, three restrictions were put on Uber; that it needed all drivers to be insured for private hire even when not transporting people, that it needed a complaints line, and that its drivers were required to take an English test as part of the application process.
De la Mar managed to get the first two restrictions removed by proving them unlawful. Whether he will manage to do the same again is yet to be seen, but as soon as we know more, we’ll let you know.
- Looking for an alternative taxi service for if Uber fails to appeal? Check out: Uber alternatives: the best taxi apps for distraught Londoners