Uber decision divides London

Vidya Ram LONDON | Updated on January 10, 2018 Published on September 22, 2017


Taxi app Uber suffered a major blow on Friday as Transport for London the body responsible for issuing licences to cab companies, said that from the end of September it would lose its licence to operate in the city.

“Uber London Ltd is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator license,” said TFL regarding the taxi app’s private hire operator licence that expires on September 30. It said that when it came to reporting serious offences, gaining medical certificates for its drivers, and other issues, Uber’s approach and conduct demonstrated a “lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications.” Around 3.5 million Londoners use the app.

“Providing an innovative service must not be at the expense of customer safety and security…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,” said London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan, who expressed his backing the move.

Uber pledged to challenge the decision in the courts to “defend the livelihoods” of drivers and the “consumer choice of millions of Londoners…the ban would show the world that, far from being open, London is closed to innovative companies who bring choice to consumers.”

The stance is a political gamble for Mr. Khan, in a city where Uber is a divisive issue. London’s black cabs have long remonstrated against the taxi-app, while the 40,000 or so cars who have joined the service have added to pressure on London’s already congested road. However, the low-cost travel that Uber has enabled has made taxi travel affordable to new sections of society, and provided a livelihood to many, particularly from migrant communities who form the bulk of Uber drivers.

“Frankly this seems to be a decision intended to please black cab drivers and making #London more hostile for people of colour/migrants,” tweeted Sunny Singh, a London based writer and commentator, who argued that for many from ethnic minority communities it also offered greater “freedom to move about the city.”

The business body the Institute of Directors called on TfL and Uber to find a solution, urging Uber to clarify how it would meet safety standards and TfL to acknowledge London’s “hard fought and positive reputation as a hotbed for disruptive innovation and tech driven competition…with 40,000 jobs now at stake across London, there could also be a big human cost to this decision.”

However, others welcomed the decision including Labour MP Wes Streeting, who led a parliamentary campaign to revoke the license, citing concerns about safety and security, and the treatment of drivers “some of who are taking home as little as £2 an hour. It is deeply regrettable that Uber had to be dragged through the courts by the GMB trade union to force the company to accept its obligations as an employer to pay drivers at least the minimum wage as well as holiday pay, sick pay and other statutory entitlements available to employees,” he wrote in a letter to TFL earlier this year.

Responding to Uber’s statement about London being closed to innovative companies he tweeted, “It means London is closed to companies that flout the rules and don’t handle complaints about rape and sexual assault seriously.”

Published on September 22, 2017

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