Uber will no longer be able to operate in London from the end of next week unless it appeals successfully against Transport for London’s (TfL’s) decision not renew its licence, which expires at the end of September 2017.
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This is another example of how businesses using disruptive business models can fall foul of local rules and regulations.
Tfl concluded that “Uber London Limited is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence”. Uber, which has had a licence to operate in London since 2012, said it will appeal the decision and will be able to continue its operation during the appeal.
“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 a TfL statement. “TfL considers that Uber’s approach and conduct demonstrates a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications.”
TfL cited issues including Uber London’s approach to reporting serious criminal offences, how medical certificates are obtained and its approach to explaining the use of 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.
Russ Shaw, founder of startup support network Tech London Advocates, said the move “feels like a step backwards for London’s claim to be a digital city”. However, he added that the decision not to renew the licence is a “damning indictment of the company’s approach to social responsibility and safety.”
“Technology has transformed the private car industry, and nostalgia for black cabs should not restrict tech startups that provide greater access and affordability for customers. The offline era is over, and London needs to embrace its digital future.
“Technology is moving faster than regulators, and this incident shows the need to regulate proactively rather than reactively. This should serve as a wake-up call for City Hall to conduct a full innovation audit and work with the private sector to put in place a forward-looking system of regulation.”
In March 2017, Uber shut down its operations in Denmark, less than three years after launching in the country. The company said upcoming changes in Danish taxi legislation had left it with no choice but to close the service.