London is banning Uber out of the city.
Citing concerns that the Uber company is not “fit and proper” in its compliance with regulations, Transport for London, the government body that oversees the city’s transportation, announced on Friday that it won’t be renewing Uber’s license to operate in the city which expires on September 30.
Transport for London said that Uber shows a “lack of corporate responsibility” linked to a number of its behaviors, such as failing to report sexual assault by its drivers and using lax background checks.
The decision not to renew Uber’s license could end up causing a major upheaval to the lives of around 40,000 licensed Uber drivers there and to the roughly 3.5 million Londoners who actually rely on them for commuting.
But Uber has said its planning to challenge the decision in court, and it will be able to continue operating in the city until the court appeals process is exhausted. According to the Guardian, this process could take months. So while Uber driver’s jobs are still safe, they will still be able to work for a while, and in the case that Uber wins an appeal, might never lose their jobs at all.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan endorsed the decision by Transport for London, and specifically used language that encouraged the presence of companies like Uber but warned them and said that they must follow to local regulations if they want to stay to their work. All companies in London must abide by the rules and adhere to the high standards we expect — particularly when it comes to the safety of the customers.
But it’s not just about London. These kinds of accusations have plagued the company in a number of cities also whole around the world.
London has a pretty long list of complaints against Uber
In August, the Sunday Times obtained a letter by Inspector Neil Billany, head of the Metropolitan police’s taxi and private hire unit, which claimed Uber had chosen not to notify police after being aware of criminal activity about its drivers on more than half a dozen occasions.
Uber’s general manager for London Tom Elvidge immediately responded to those accusations, saying that Uber partners with local police to respond to complaints but it’s the victims’ responsibility, not Uber’s, to report sexual assault allegations against Uber drivers to the police.
London regulators also asserted that Uber does not hold its drivers to the same standards when it comes to medical and background checks that regular taxi companies do. Experts say Uber’s less intense scrutiny of drivers criminal and medical backgrounds gives the company a substantial edge over standard taxi companies.
Fred Jones, who oversees Uber’s operations in a number of cities across the UK and Ireland, pushed back on that claim, telling the BBC that Uber drivers have to pass the same safety checks as other cab drivers in London.
Uber is a disruptor, and it’s going to keep facing challenges
Kirkegaard acknowledges that Uber has many problems in the ways it operates but believes the city’s decision was driven largely by the taxi lobby. “The big underlying dynamic is that the city government has decided to cave or protect the black cabs in London,” he said. The city’s licensed taxi drivers have put pressure on officials to regulate Uber more heavily — and reveled in the city’s new decision.
“Since it first came on to our streets Uber has broken the law, exploited its drivers and refused to take responsibility for the safety of passengers. This immoral company has no place on London’s streets,” Steve McNamara, general secretary of London’s Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, told the Guardian.
Some analysts say the heart of the issue is how Uber sees itself as a company. Lawrence Mishel, president of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, told me the main issue is that Uber’s fundamental ethos is that it sees itself as above the rules.
“When Austin, Texas, required Uber to do more background checks on drivers, Uber pulled out of the city — and eventually came back after getting the Texas legislature to overrule the city,” Mishel said, referring the company’s sizable lobbying operation in the state.