Categories: Mobile AppsMobility

TfL Bans Uber From London Amid Safety & Security Concerns

Uber will not be given a new licence to operate a taxi service in London after Transport for London (TfL) declared it “not fit and proper” due to potential public safety and security implications.

The company has been besieged by controversy ever since it arrived in the capital, with many questioning its legality and employment practices, while there have been rising concerns about how it deals with the alleged conduct of its drivers.

Among TfL’s chief concerns are how Uber reports serious criminal offences, how medical certificates are obtained, how it checks drivers, and how authorities can gain access to the application to undertake regulatory or law enforcement duties as a result of ‘Grayball’.

Grayball was a version of the Uber app designed to keep potential regulators from getting rides.

Uber London licence

“TfL’s regulation of London’s taxi and private hire trades is designed to ensure passenger safety. Private hire operators must meet rigorous regulations, and demonstrate to TfL that they do so, in order to operate. TfL must also be satisfied that an operator is fit and proper to hold a licence,” said TfL.

Uber was awarded a four month licence in May while TfL considered its application for a five year term. Now that this has been rejected, Uber’s existing licence expires on 30 September, however it can continue to operate until all of its routes for appeal have been exhausted.

The company has said it will “immediately challenge” the decision, which will “astound” its 3.5 million customers in London, in the courts to defend the livelihoods of its drivers.

“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,” said Tom Elvidge, general manager of Uber in London. “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.

“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.”

Elvidge said the fact uber continued to operate in 600 cities around the world, including 40 in the UK, showed that London was closed to innovation – an allegation denied by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

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Mayor’s view

“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,” he said.

“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.  Providing an innovative service must not be at the expense of customer safety and security.

“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.”

Ongoing management crises

Uber’s management team have also been criticised for attitudes towards privacy and the corporate culture at the company, amid allegations of sexual harassment, bullying and inaction. Former CEO Travis Kalanick has been replaced by former Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi as the company attempts to stave off any threat to a business that has been valued at more than $70 billion.

Aside from its eponymous taxi service, Uber has branched out into food delivery and is making significant investments in self-driving cars.

“Poor values ultimately bring leaders and companies down. Uber is already effectively banned from a number of countries including France, Spain and Belgium and now London,” commented John Collety from Warwick Business School.

“There is a very long list of businesses who have suffered for failing to uphold the level of values necessary.

“Until Uber gets this message then it will suffer lost trade as a result of its deteriorating reputation. Customers do have options in London with Addison Lee and the likes. In the short term expect plenty of positive PR but the prospects of the culture changing while Kalanick is still there are slim.

“Uber faces litigation and investigation all round the world. Uber’s thrusting style, which many have labelled a macho and sexist culture, is predominantly a consequence of Kalanick’s approach to leadership.

“Kalanick remains on the board with two of his close supporters. It is his management team and the culture follows his personality. While he is still there the culture is unlikely to change.”

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Steve McCaskill

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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