Uber Loses License to Operate in London

LONDON — Uber’s history of scandals and disregard for local rules finally caught up with it on Friday, when London declined to renew the ride-hailing company’s license to operate in the city, its largest European market.

Transport for London, the agency that oversees the city’s subways, buses and taxicabs, declared that Uber was not sufficiently “fit and proper.” The designation carries significant weight in Britain.

London stripped Uber on Friday of its license to operate from the end of September in a huge blow to the taxi app that will affect more than 40,000 drivers in one of the world’s biggest cities.

“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,” Transport for London (TfL) said.

The final day of Uber’s license will be on Sep. 30. Uber, which has the right to appeal the decision within 21 days.

A ban on operating in one of its largest markets would certainly hit Uber’s bottom line. The company said it had 40,000 drivers and 3.5 million customers in London who used its app at least once every three months.

“Fit and proper” is a benchmark that Britain applies across different industries and its charitable organizations to ensure that people or organizations meet the requirements of their industry or specialty.

“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,” Transport for London said in a statement.

Tests typically assess factors like an individual or company’s honesty, transparency and competence, though there is no formal exam. In Uber’s case, Transport for London said it had examined issues of how the company dealt with serious criminal offenses, how it conducted background checks on drivers and its justification for a software program called Greyball, which “could be used to block regulatory bodies from gaining full access to the app.”

In May, Transport for London had extended Uber’s license by four months as it considered whether the company met that threshold.

Uber’s London license will now expire on Sept. 30. But it can continue to operate in the city during the appeal process in Britain’s courts.

In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio has criticized Uber’s rapid expansion for making congestion worse on city streets. But in 2015, his administration backed down from a fight with Uber by abruptly dropping a plan for a cap on the number of Uber vehicles operating within the city.

The city’s yellow taxi industry has brought lawsuits against the city and its Taxi and Limousine Commission, charging that ride-hailing apps face fewer regulations than taxis. But so far there has been little legal success.

Uber’s London license will now expire on Sept. 30. But it can continue to operate in the city during the appeal process in Britain’s courts.

Tom Elvidge, Uber’s general manager in London, said the agency and Mr. Khan had “caved in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice.” ….  [click here to read the full story]

 

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