And so it finally happened.
After months of uncertainties, Transport for London (TfL) has decided to strip Uber of its licence to operate in London.
With a statement on Twitter, TfL said it informed the car-riding app “that it will not be issued with a private hire operator licence after expiry of its current licence on 30 September.”
Uber, which has more than 40,000 registered drivers in the capital, has 21 days to appeal the decision. And during that time, it’s allowed to operate, so don’t freak out just yet.
“TfL has concluded that Uber London Limited is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence,” TfL, which issued a temporary, 4-month licence to Uber in May, 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.”
Unsurprisingly, Uber said in a statement that it’s going to appeal TfL’s decision:
“3.5 million Londoners who use our app, and more than 40,000 licensed drivers who rely on Uber to make a living, will be astounded by this decision.
“By wanting to ban our app from the capital Transport for London and the Mayor have caved in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice. If this decision stands, it will put more than 40,000 licensed drivers out of work and deprive Londoners of a convenient and affordable form of transport.
“To defend the livelihoods of all those drivers, and the consumer choice of millions of Londoners who use our app, we intend to immediately challenge this in the courts.
“Drivers who use Uber are licensed by Transport for London and have been through the same enhanced DBS background checks as black cab drivers. Our pioneering technology has gone further to enhance safety with every trip tracked and recorded by GPS. We have always followed TfL rules on reporting serious incidents and have a dedicated team who work closely with the Metropolitan Police. As we have already told TfL, an independent review has found that ‘greyball’ has never been used or considered in the UK for the purposes cited by TfL.
“Uber operates in more than 600 cities around the world, including more than 40 towns and cities here in the UK. This ban would show the world that, far from being open, London is closed to innovative companies who bring choice to consumers.”
The statement is pretty critical of TfL and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. “By wanting to ban our app from the capital Transport for London and the Mayor have caved in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice,” Tom Elvidge, General Manager of Uber in London, said.
“This ban would show the world that, far from being open, London is closed to innovative companies who bring choice to consumers,” he added, with a bitter reference to Khan’s #LondonIsOpen campaign.
The Mayor himself commented on Twitter saying he “fully supports TfL’s decision”, citing again concerns over the customers’ “safety and security.”
The drivers’ unions — the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain’s (IWGB) United Private Hire Drivers (UPHD) — called the move a “devastating blow” in a statement:
“This is a devastating blow for 30,000 Londoners who now face losing their job and being saddled with unmanageable vehicle related debt.To strip Uber of it’s license after five years of laissez faire regulation is a testament to a systemic failure at TfL.
Rather than banish Uber, TfL should have strengthened its regulatory oversight, curbed runaway licensing and protected the worker rights of drivers. The Mayor must call for an urgent independent review of TfL to identify the causes of failure and prevent something like this from ever happening again.”
TfL’s move is the latest in a long-standing war with London authorities.
In March, Uber lost a court battle with TfL over new rules that will require private-hire drivers to pass an English language test.