Will Uber ever get their licence back in London?
Two years ago, Tfl revoked Uber’s licence, deeming the ride hailing app “not fit and proper”. They were granted upon appeal a 15 month probationary licence, due to expire on Wednesday, 25th September. But on the 24th September, TfL has announced that only a 2 month licence was granted…
A rocky two years for the American giant
Uber’s operator licence application was rejected by TfL in 2017 as a result of failings found in its approach to handling serious criminal offences and allegations, as well as driver background checks. Allegations made against Uber in the past couple of years include a string of offences committed by their drivers, being held responsible for pollution and congestion in the capital, as well as a refusal to follow the rules. And the regulators aren’t the only ones that are unhappy with the app: in May 2019, Uber drivers went on strike in several cities across the world, and the shares dropped significantly.
Most recently, on Friday, 20th September, a petition demanding the refusal of Uber’s licence was handed to the Mayor of London’s office with over 3,000 signatures on it.
And, on Tuesday 24th September, TfL granted them only a new two-month licence, that comes with “new conditions to ensure passenger safety”.
“Uber London Limited has been granted a two-month private hire operator licence to allow for scrutiny of additional information that we are requesting ahead of consideration of any potential further licensing application,” said a TfL spokesman.
Uber’s 15 months probationary licence, issued in June 2018 following their appeal to September 2017’s decision is now replaced by a 2-month extension, which means Uber can keep trading in the Capital until the 24th November 2019.
They had originally applied for a standard 5 year licence, however Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s comments last month on LBC radio cast a shadow over the likelihood of them being successful:
“You will know my track record which is standing up to the big boys, and they are boys, and make sure everyone plays by the rules whether you’re a big business or whether you’re a small business and I don’t care how many lawyers you employ or how big your PR budget”.
Since losing their licence, Uber have implemented a number of measures aiming to address the regulators’ concerns, but once more it seems that the regulator hasn’t been convinced, thus requesting further information before making a decision. Will these additional measures be enough for the controversial app to regain the authorities’ trust? They are still currently under investigation by HMRC over allegations that they owe £1bn in unpaid VAT, and they keep coming under fire for their treatment of workers (most recently, on the 10th September, in California, with “AB5” vote, aiming to prevent companies from mis-classifying their workers as contractors, thus denying them benefits and minimum wages).
Uber were also issued with a £28,800 fine by Westminster Magistrates Court in July 2019, for allowing their drivers to operate without proper insurance and not keeping adequate records.
The three most likely scenarios that could happen next:
- Full Licence – Uber is granted a five-year licence to operate in London
- Probationary Licence – Uber’s long-term licence application is rejected once again, but they are granted a shorter-term licence, for 12 or 15 months, similar to the present one
- Unsuccessful renewal – Uber’s renewal application is rejected and their licence revoked; the company is no longer allowed to operate in London.
Uber, who has identified London has a crucial part of their European market, will no doubt appeal if their licence isn’t renewed or extended at the end of the new 2-month probationary period. During this process, they may still be able to operate in the city.
The decision could have a big impact on the make-up of the taxi and private hire industry in the Capital, with competitors Bolt and Kapten undoubtedly getting ready to seize the opportunity for a bigger market share, and smaller operators likely looking to expand their fleet by taking on some of the drivers and reclaiming clients they had lost to the app.