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Why London Won't Renew Uber's License
Uber is losing its license to operate in London next weekend. This isn't a Luddite move by socialists in local government. Uber has not been a good corporate citizen according to regulators. Riders and drivers have other apps for the same thing, so clearly it isn't about the technology. It's the company itself.
If you are in London after September 30, you aren't going to be able to use Uber. Transport for London (TfL) has decided not to renew the company's license to operate in the British capital, which expires at the end of the month. The company is having conniptions, and the Conservative Party's free market faction has claimed this is a socialist-Luddite attack on innovation. Personally, I hope the company loses its appeal because it needs to clean up its act to meet British rules.
Before I became a New Yorker, I was a Londoner for three years during the dark days of Thatcher and massive unemployment. When the underground stopped running shortly after midnight, you had three options for getting home (other than walking): a black cab (expensive, and I was a student), the night bus (infrequent at best), or a radio car. Radio cars (also called minicabs) are not hard to explain. You would call a number, give the pick up and drop off addresses, you would be quoted a price, and you would get a ride home in a private car dispatched by citizen's band radio (it was the 1980s, no cell phone was smaller than a brick). Uber's business model is just an internet adaptation of the radio car.
Chris Philp, Conservative MP for Croydon South, said, "The people who are going to be hit the worst are people on lower incomes who can afford Uber but can’t afford a black cab. It is anti-free market." This is, as usual of Conservative MPs, bollocks (British for "BS"). You can still get a car in London using your phone: Gett, MyTaxi, Addison Lee, Kabbee and Taxify. Riders and drivers can switch.
The idea of a car hailing app is perfectly fine. It's not the app, it's the corporation. TfL has decided Uber is not a "fit and proper" holder of a license to operate. Part of the press release announcing the decision said:
"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."
In other words, not only is Uber's record on things like background checks spotty, but also it uses software that can cover up wrongdoing. If you have your knickers in a twist about Mr. Trump obstructing justice, you have to be annoyed with Uber, too.
The company can appeal, and it might win. I would prefer Uber starts playing by the rules and trying to win in the marketplace without cheating.
Uber's impact on the London taxi trade has been huge. The exponential growth of the ride-hailing service has caused anger...