LONDON: Uber Loses License Over “Public Safety”

The BBC reports:

Uber will not be issued a new private hire licence, Transport for London (TfL) has said. TfL concluded the ride-hailing app firm was not fit and proper to hold a London private hire operator licence.

It said it took the decision on the grounds of “public safety and security implications”. Confirming it would appeal against the decision, Uber said it showed the world “far from being open, London is closed to innovative companies”. Some 3.5 million passengers and 40,000 drivers use the Uber app in London.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “I fully support TfL’s decision – it would be wrong if TfL continued to license Uber if there is any way that this could pose a threat to Londoners’ safety and security.” TfL’s concerns include Uber’s approach to carrying out background checks on drivers and reporting serious criminal offences.

More from Reuters:

London’s traditional black cab drivers have attacked Uber, saying it has undercut safety rules and threatened their livelihoods. Uber has been criticized by unions and lawmakers too and been embroiled in legal battles over workers’ rights.

London police also complained in a letter published that Uber was either not disclosing, or taking too long, to report serious crimes including sexual assaults and this put the public at risk.

Uber said then its drivers passed the same rigorous checks as black cab drivers and it has always followed TfL’s rules on reporting serious incidents and it had a dedicated team that worked closely with London’s police.

  • bkmn

    I don’t mind seeing the tech giants taken down a bit. They think they rule the planet and they need a slap back to reality.

    • Leo

      There’s been a deluge of op-eds globally in the last couple of weeks on “blood in the water of Silicon Valley” and the “tech backlash”. Wish it was sooner and louder. They hear it – do they care? Doubt it. I just hope Google’s ex-employees win their lawsuit.

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  • Leo

    Just from the headline I genuinely thought it was over its corporate board controversy on misogyny, not even its drivers. I’d switch permanently to Lyft on my apps but it’s rates aren’t always consistently lower in the D.C. metro area. Then again I guess you get what you pay for.

  • David J

    It’s damn near impossible to properly run and supervise a service when all those who work in that service are legally classified as “independent contractors” so as to avoid tax and other regulatory burdens with which the rest of the same service industry must comply. This is the basic problem with Uber’s business model.

    • crewman

      It’s the upside of deregulation, which Republicans exclusively want to focus on. The abuses, considerations of public good, and accountability are what Republicans always ignore.

    • Kruhn

      Cab drivers are independent contractors too.

      • ChrisMorley

        However in London Black Cabs are subject to Transport for London regulations, setting their charges, criminal record checks on drivers for public safety, etc., while Uber is failing to comply with London’s regulatory standards, hence it’s lost its licence to operate.
        Lots of Private Hire operators in London manage to comply with basic standards, but not Uber.

    • Duh-David

      Mother taught me not to meet strangers on the internet, and not to get in strangers’ cars. Now I use the internet to meet strangers and get in their cars, constantly.

    • Mikey Ruck

      not really true at all. I ran a livery business (car service) here in the Phoenix area for over ten years. I have no issues with competition at all, as long as THE PLAYING FIELD IS LEVEL.

      with Uber and Lyft, it is not. their drivers are not background checked, regardless of what they say. when you are properly licensed, your cars have commercial license plates, airport permits, and PROPER COMMERCIAL LIABILITY INSURANCE, which Uber and Lyft cars DO NOT have.

      each of our vehicles had a five million commercial liability policy, with a ten million dollar umbrella policy covering the whole fleet. on many Lyft and Uber vehicles, they are running with a standard auto policy just like you have. if you read yours, you’ll clearly see TRANSPORTING PASSENGERS FOR HIRE IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED. so essentially if you’re riding in one of these cars and its in a wreck, you will NOT be covered.

      the fact that they are NOT regulated results in much higher rates than a regulated livery business would charge. if we charged $800 for an airport trip that Uber charges during “peak” times would result in our permit to operate being suspended.

      what also baffles me is all these violence issues by either driver or passenger(s) in Uber and Lyft vehicles. in the ten plus years I was in business, I never once saw or heard of anything of this nature EVER occurring, even once. our cars covered over 18 million miles in the ten plus years I had the business, and the mere thought of something like this occurring is unfathomable.

      • Snarkaholic

        I agree with everything you say. I’d also like to point out that in some states (like here in NJ) insurance companies Do Not Offer ride share insurance…so even those drivers who want to be properly insured can’t do so.

      • gothambear

        The Uber and Lyft cars in New York City clearly have the special designated “T” Livery license plates required to transport paying passengers so that is not always true.

  • Gustav2

    When are we going to figure out “independent contractors” are not a good idea for many things considered utilities or what we use as utilities.

    • cleos_mom

      It’s the libertarian mentality.

      Ignorance we can cure; stupid is forever.

      • Gustav2

        And the real reason wages have not kept up with inflation, but don’t tell blue collar Republicans.

  • Ninja0980

    Good.
    If nothing else, Uber doesn’t require background checks.
    You have no idea who you’re getting in that car with.

    • MusicBear88

      I think it’s exactly like what we’re taught NOT to do as children — getting in a car with a stranger — only we pay for the privilege!

    • Kruhn

      They regularly do background checks at Uber. I have sundry grips with Uber like drivers having no city knowledge and being paid slave wages, but by and large Uber’s background check is pretty solid. Drivers should be fingerprinted, but it still works.

    • jerry

      I’ve never taken Uber, but I did do a couple airport runs this year with Lyft…mainly because the conventional cab companies wouldn’t answer their phones. Otherwise, I generally would rather take the regular cab.

  • Ernest Endevor

    This is absolute fucking bullshit. London cab drivers go ‘on the knowledge’ for, I think, 6 months. During that time – being paid very little – they drive the complex web of London’s streets to teach themselves where everything is and how best to get there. An Uber driver offers nothing beyond a car and a GPS. Of course they shouldn’t be licensed in the London metropolitan area because they are untrained and unfit.

    • Gustav2

      but…but…but GPS is always correct! /s

      Ask the repairmen who use it to find our house just a block off a MAJOR street in our city. They end up a block away, our street starts and stops 3 times.

      • Ernest Endevor

        My house number doesn’t show up. I tell people to just drive to the end of the road, pass the gates of hell and we’re directly ahead.

        • Gustav2

          We use landmarks, at the end of the street we have a bakery, a funeral home, a Wendy’s and a beer drive-thru. Along with the drugstore/Hallmark shop just half a block away, if you miss us. after talking to us, you shouldn’t be working on my HUAC.

          • JT

            Has Joe McCarthy returned as a zombie?

          • Gustav2

            It is a neighborhood built in the 1960’s with some of the businesses still in the original families.. lol

        • stuckinthewoods

          I feel your pain. On the other hand, it’s why we live here.

      • Butch

        If you try to use GPS to find our house it will land you 12 miles away. Our upholstery shop is at our home; I warn people not to use GPS to find us but I’ve also learned where they’re calling from when I get the “we’re looking at a brown house. Is that anywhere near you?” calls.

        • Gustav2

          You are a Yooper right? GPS is useless much of the U.P.!

          We are in middle Columbus OH metro area on a street that has been here since the 1960’s and they still can find us. If we are working in the front yard or sitting on the front porch and see a car driving by a few times we ask them if they are lost. Usually they are on the GPS looking for an address just a block away but can’t find it because GPS doesn’t have our street stopping and starting

          The 1500 block is not directly connected to the 1700 block or the 1300 block the other way.

    • skyhawk

      But startups, CEO profits! You infidel!!

  • Jeffrey

    I travel a lot. I always just use the tube in London unless I have luggage and then I use a black cab. But in NYC or San Francisco it’s all Lyft. They are often convenient when a taxi isn’t and shows up exactly where and when I need it to. But I understand London’s decision and every city needs to be able to make that decision.

  • Do Something Nice

    Uber has fought every type of regulation in just about every city where challenged. They have never made a profit. They lost $2.8 billion dollars last year. They operate at a loss to push out all competition. They don’t care about employee safety. They don”t care about client safety.

    Fuck Uber.

    • Butch

      I think maybe the “rules don’t apply to us” and the “bro” culture are finally coming back to bite ’em.

    • Kruhn

      While I agree with your sentiment (I’m a former Uber driver who got screwed and not in a good way by Kalanick’s jabronies), the biggest reason for their loss is because of the amount of drivers in the system they have to pay. They have too many drivers to ensure a car is at your doorstep in less than five minutes.

    • Danieruw

      Don’t forget their ultimate goal is driverless cars so they don’t have to pay ANY drivers.

  • Publius

    Like most new regulations of ride sharing, this is a politically motivated gesture of goodwill to the taxi industry, which oversees the operation of taxi companies whose taxis are uncomfortable and smelly while being charged exorbitant amounts of money in fares.

    Look, nobody wants their jobs to be phased out, but taxis are nasty, and people are in the market for cheap, reliable, and friendly transportation. Ride sharing services tend to provide that more often than not, and at least a thousand times more often than taxi services.

    We don’t need to continue on with these desperate attempts to stop the inevitable dominance of ride sharing.

    • kiprian

      One of the few really wonderful things about England is the standard taxi. Easy to get in and out of with luggage. Clean, roomy, and comfortable. The drivers are quiet and respectful, unless you’re looking for a conversation. And the drivers are knowledgeable.

      • Publius

        They’re enormous. Yeah my comment is geared in the general direction of an American context. I don’t think literally anyone in this country believes taxicabs are spacious and/or clean.

        • 2guysnamedjoe

          I occasionally ride in NYC taxis, and I’ve found them to be clean and adequately roomy, and their drivers courteous.

    • 2guysnamedjoe

      “Ride sharing” is such a misnomer; I don’t see where sharing enters into it. “Ride sharing” just puts a nice veneer over a hard-nosed, aggressive business that exploits its “contractors” and jeopardizes the safety of its customers.

    • scorpiomike

      My typical response to these types of changes (including big box stores taking over small local stores, chain restaurants overtaking local, etc.). You cannot charge more money without offering something in return. When someone offers something better for less, it may stink that they can do so because they are bigger, but figure out how to do something different or better.

    • Do Something Nice

      Yes, lets lower the wages for everyone for the greater good. Or something.

      • Publius

        If you can afford high taxi fares, then please, by all means, continue to use taxis. Personally, I can’t.

        Unlike the other side, I’m not saying we should ban an industry. I merely believe two can co-exist; people should have options.

    • stevenj

      “Ride sharing”

      Here in SF that term has stopped being used (instead it’s now “ride services”) because everyone knows what “ride sharing” means for those that don’t use Uber and Lyft. It means double parked cars (wherever and whenever) in traffic and bike lanes, super congested streets at rush hours, blocked bus stops, and higher pollution levels from all the extra fossil fuel cars out on the streets. Many would prefer not to “share” like that. Using the excuse that public transportation is unreliable and slow misses the point. If you add tens of thousands of extra cars to the street it is ride services that are helping slow it down. Soon they will be banned from Market St where they have managed to cause accidents and drive recklessly at times to pick up a fare. They are already banned from all red transit only (busses and taxis) lanes citywide because of their steadfast refusal to be regulated by the city – many however totally ignore the rules.

      In London, according the BBC article I read, Uber is threatening 40,000 cab jobs.

    • Tempus Fuggit

      Try knowing what you’re about to talk about before doing the talking. Taxis in London are the diametric opposite of “nasty”.

      • Publius

        Feel better?

  • LarryChemEngr

    So, comply with London’s safety rules and get your license back. London’s black cabs are immaculate and a delightful experience. But, every Uber I’ve gotten into has been great, too. I suspect this decision was heavily influenced by the black cab lobby.

    Maybe the differences between Ubers and cabs in England are starkly different from America. Have you ever gotten into a cab in NYC? They drive like lunatics – no regard for common sense or safety. Also, I’ve gotten into quite a few cabs that were disgusting, broken-down wrecks. By contrast, every Uber and Lyft I’ve gotten into has been in perfect and clean condition, and the drivers drove very safely.

    The other advantage of Uber and Lyft is that you don’t have to stand there on a corner waving them down or hoping one is even there. The technology takes away the annoyance and anxiety of finding the ride in the first place. Maybe cabs should adopt the same technology.

    If cabs want to get back some market share (in America, at least) they need to clean up their act and embrace the new technology.

    • cleos_mom

      A cab making a sharp turn on the Brooklyn Bridge right into the drink would make for some high-class entertainment.

      “He had to do it — GPS gave the order.”

      • Hue-Man

        I was a passenger in a car in Germany 20 years ago when the technology was still young. When the driver (intentionally) drove past the exit, the GPS voice insisted that he make a U-turn on the Autobahn.
        Hence, my lack of enthusiasm for driverless cars.

    • ChrisMorley

      Most London Black Cabs can easily be booked through the 9 companies they work through, listed here by Transport for London. https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/taxis-and-minicabs/book-a-taxi
      London Black Cabs also wait for hire at taxi ranks, eg at major railway stations.

  • Guytano Parks

    I don’t know what the bloody ‘ell is going on there across the pond, but my multitudes of experiences with Uber (and Lyft) in The States on this side of the pond has been nothing less than exceptional!… supremely better than the cab service in my city, and I will gladly contine using Uber!…

    • Tempus Fuggit

      Lyft, fine. Uber, shame on you; you’re supporting a truly slimy company that badly mistreats its drivers.

  • bambinoitaliano

    There is already a couple of assaulted cases involving Uber drivers in my city. It is just an app that allow just about any one to hook up with an amateur cab driver. I understand the existence because of the monopoly of the cab industry that has created the need of an alternative just the same as Air BnB is born out of over priced and under supply in the hotel industry. But users of these services need to understand they are employing the service of strangers with little oversight. Just because it’s an app on your phone and devices does not always translate consistently in a real life situation when dealing with a stranger. Those who are vulnerable especially women would not have just hop into a stranger’s car more than they should call up Uber service. I do know they are genuinely great Uber drivers offering a much needed service. One would have to do their homework to read all the feedback from previous riders to make that distinction.

    • ChrisMorley

      There is no monopoly in London.
      You have a choice between regulated, safe Black Cabs, and much less regulated Private Hire cars. Uber is just one of the many Private Hire operators.

  • JWC

    A thorny question

  • Hue-Man

    Uber is destroying the value of one of the most valuable assets in the tax industry – the taxi licence. This from last year.

    On Tuesday, the Vancouver Taxi Association and Yellow Cab Co. acknowledged that licences that once commanded nearly a million dollars each have little value because of the uncertainty Uber has created in the marketplace.

    http://www.vancouversun.com/news/even+before+uber+arrives+taxi+industry+disarray/11755601/story.html

  • AJD

    If you ask me, this whole bro-ish “disruption” culture from Silicon Valley needs a good slap in the face. Peter Thiel even tried to skirt FDA and IRB regulations by running a clinical trial overseas with no oversight.

    • Natty Enquirer

      The Bros have been able to buy their way past U.S. regulation with healthy infusions of venture cash. Not so easy in London Town, apparently.

  • James

    The same rigorous checks . . . except The Knowledge.