by Graham Pierrepoint
Uber granted London operating licence with 15-month probation
Uber hasn’t been having the best few years – the firm has been at the center of a number of controversies not only regarding their business practices – where local taxi firms have alleged that they have unfairly swallowed up trade – but they have also come under fire for allegations of sexist workplace culture. Add this to their ban in Italy and their recent struggles with the city of London, UK, and you have a bit of a public firestorm that the firm is striving to put out. They were also at the center of controversy regarding upping fares during protests against Donald Trump’s US Presidency at JFK Airport – and continuing sexual assault allegations made against their drivers, in addition to a sizable user data leak in 2016, have continued to render the brand rather negatively in public eyes – despite the convenience it can bring.
One of these issues, it seems, is about to be remedied. Transport for London, or TfL, had outright repealed Uber’s licence to operate in the area on the grounds of security and safety – on the back of complaints having been made regarding driver screening – and in response, the firm immediately appealed. As of this week, their appeal against the decision made has been successful – and the ban against their ability to trade and operate in the capital will therefore be lifted. This is not only great news for the firm, but also for their drivers, and for thousands of commuters – as despite controversies the brand has faced over the past few years, a change in CEO and continuing investigations into their operation have made large attempts to turn the name of Uber around. However, has the brand outgrown its former – and still very prescient – controversies? That side of things remains up for debate.
These attempts, it seems, were enough to satisfy Westminster Magistrates’ Court, as they determined that Uber were now ‘fit and proper’ to hold a licence in London – on a probationary basis of up to 15 months, and providing that the firm clears TfL’s fees of $556,000 (equivalent). Uber had in fact sought a five-year licence extension – but it seems that the 15-month deal will be the victory they are claiming this week.
▶ Uber Regains Its License to Operate in London
“We are pleased with today’s decision,” Uber UK GM Tom Elvidge announced. “We will continue to work with TfL to address their concerns and earn their trust, while providing the best possible service for our customers.” Licensed Taxi Drivers Association GS Steve McNamara, however, was less please. “Uber’s blatant disregard for TfL’s regulations and public safety was laid before the court – when TfL’s lawyers grilled Uber on its handling of the 2016 data breach and its shocking failure to report sexual assaults to the police, Uber just blamed its tainted past on its former leadership.”
Where will Uber go from here – is it a brand changed for the better? Let’s see what the latter half of 2018 has to bring.
▶ Taxi wars - Black cabs v Uber (FT Business)