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Uber loses licence in London… but may carry on operating

That’s the latest blow for the American giant, valued at $70bn. After months of turmoil and uncertainty, the giant seems to have lost the battle in the Capital.

Even though it will delight Uber’s many detractors, it is a surprising decision from TfL. By not renewing Uber’s licence, they will miss out on the £2.9m in licence fee that the firm would have had to pay in accordance to the new operator licensing fees structure revealed earlier this week.

Uber London Limited “not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence”

Tax evasion, poor employment conditions, covered up sexual assaults, Uber has faced multiple accusations over the past few months. Politicians, taxi drivers and even Uber’s own drivers have been hitting out, and it looks like TfL listened to them.

In a press release issued today, TfL said that:

“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.”

“TfL considers that 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. These include:
• Its approach to reporting serious criminal offences.
• Its approach to how medical certificates are obtained.
• Its approach to how Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are obtained.
• Its approach to explaining the use of Greyball in London – software that could be used to block regulatory bodies from gaining full access to the app and prevent officials from undertaking regulatory or law enforcement duties.”

TfL has concluded that Uber London Limited is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence.”

Impact on the market

TfL’s decision will disappoint the 3.5m Uber users in London, and will have a major impact on the workload for both Black cab and Private Hire drivers. London was Uber’s largest market in the UK, with an estimated 40,000 drivers, who could be out of work in a week . Uber was – by far – the largest operator in London. The consequences of their demise will be noticeable, for Londoners who are losing a very popular form of transport, and for both public and private hire drivers who will be expected to cover the shortfall. It also remains to be seen whether Uber drivers licensed outside London will still be operating in the City…

What next?

In a statement released in response to the announcement, Tom Elvidge, General Manager of Uber in London, said:

“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.”

“To defend the livelihoods of all those drivers, and the consumer choice of millions of Londoners who use our app, we intent to immediately challenge this in the courts.”

TfL’s decision came as a bit of a shock, as many were expecting at least a short-term renewal. The new operator licensing fees structure announced this week by TfL comes into place next year, and Uber would have had to pay £2.9m for their 5 years’ licence. That would have been a major contribution for TfL.

In the short term, the fate of Uber and their drivers in London is a bit unclear: Uber have already said they would be challenging the decision, and they have 21 days to lodge an appeal. It seems that they could be allowed to carry on until the end of the process, so they actually may not really be off the roads from next week…