Following concerted lobbying from Unite and other unions, Transport for London (TfL) today (September 22) announced Uber’s operating licence will not be renewed in a resounding victory for passenger safety.
TfL said that it would be revoking Uber’s operating licence because the company’s “approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility”, after allegations that Uber was looking the other way when its drivers allegedly sexually assaulted passengers.
In one instance, a driver sexually assaulted a passenger – and even after it was reported, the driver continued to work for Uber and later went on to commit a “more serious” sexual assault offence against a different passenger.
Uber has 21 days to appeal the decision revoking its private hire licence in London, during which time the app can continue to operate. But if Uber loses its appeal, it will no longer have a presence in its largest market in Europe.
“TfL’s regulation of London’s taxi and private hire trades is designed to ensure passenger safety,” TfL noted. “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 has concluded that Uber London Limited is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence.”
Other reasons TfL had given for rejecting Uber’s licence renewal is the company’s approach to how medical certificates and DBS checks for its drivers are obtained.
TfL also expressed concern over Uber’s use of Greyball software, which can be used to block regulatory bodies from fully accessing the Uber app and could block officials from undertaking regulatory or law enforcement duties.
London mayor Sadiq Khan stood by TfL’s decision.
‘London at the forefront’
“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.”
Uber London’s licence renewal application being rejected is the latest blow to the US-based tech company – it has been driven out of other places such as Denmark and Hungary and has been contested on regulatory grounds in states throughout America and cities around the world.
Uber has further been embroiled in scandals revealing a systemic sexism and bullying culture within the company, which forced its former CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick to resign in June.
Chair of London’s Unite black cab section Jim Kelly hailed TfL’s decision today.
“The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and Transport for London have done the right thing in putting the safety of passengers and Londoners ahead of the big corporate interests of Uber,” he said.
“Dogged by controversy, Uber’s approach has been to exploit workers and bend the rules while trying to brush passenger safety concerns under the carpet.
“No one is above the law and today’s decision will be welcomed by London’s trusted professional black cab drivers,” Kelly went on to say. “It signals that the mayor of London and Transport for London are not prepared to allow London to become the ‘wild west’ of the cab trade and put passengers at risk.
“In the coming weeks Uber will no doubt throw all its legal and corporate lobbying might to overturn this decision. We would urge the mayor of London and Transport for London to stand firm and continue to stand up for the safety of Londoners and the capital’s trusted cabbies.”