Since its start-up in 2009, Uber has soared to become a household name and has expanded to a massive 633 cities worldwide. However, the popular taxi firm has run into a bit of trouble recently. The company are facing an uphill battle to maintain their operations in London after Transport for London (TfL) decided not to renew its licence on the grounds of it not being a “fit and proper” private car-hire operator.
This decision not to renew the licence - which was backed by Mayor of London Sadiq Kahn - was influenced by areas of concern such as its approach to reporting criminal offences and carrying out significant background checks on drivers. There are now more than 40,000 Uber drivers operating in London who now face an anxious wait to find out the destiny of the company’s London licence.
After facing months of bad press surrounding matters such as evading law enforcement, sexual harassment and claims of mistreating and underpaying drivers, the pressure against the company is mounting.
It is difficult to denounce Uber as a totally useless company; not only are the prices often much cheaper than hailing a standard taxi but you know exactly where your driver is, how long it’ll take for them to get there and exactly where you’ll be picked up from. Gone are the days of faffing outside Flares or bumbling around Bigg Market squinting at number plates and wondering which corner your taxi is going to arrive on.
You can also avoid being ripped off, as you know in advance how much your fare will be. Sounds great, right? As it turns out, there is a much darker side to this transport giant, and after facing months of bad press surrounding matters such as evading law enforcement, sexual harassment and claims of mistreating and underpaying drivers, the pressure against the company is mounting.
Leading up to the ban the firm has faced major criticisms, and have even faced allegations of them neglecting the safety of riders and drivers by refusing to cooperate with law enforcement. This was particularly publicised during a sexual assault case in California in which a driver was accused of restraining and attacking a female passenger where Uber refused to comply with a warrant.
There have also been several fresh lawsuits filed against the company from women who claim to have been sexually assaulted in Uber cars. This extends to TfL questioning the potential public safety and security implications from the way the company is run and commented on the firm’s approach to reporting serious criminal offences, obtaining medical certificates and background checks on drivers. Should we really trust a company that operates in this manner, even if it is a slightly cheaper fare?
The company can still continue to operate until the appeal process is exhausted, which could potentially last several months.
It’s not just TfL who is worried; some of our European counterparts have also locked horns with the company and Uber was even banned in Italy earlier this year as it was accused of being unfair competition for the traditional taxis. (This ban was annulled following an appeal from Uber.)
Uber has 28 days to lodge an appeal in their favour, and as demonstrated by their correspondence on Twitter, they fully intend to do so. Unfortunately (or not), the company can still continue to operate until the appeal process is exhausted, which could potentially last several months.
If Uber’s appeal is thrown out, there is a massive loophole in the system. Passengers can book a private vehicle from wherever they like, and that doesn’t necessarily mean they have to book a taxi from the same place they want to be picked up or dropped off. Uber has several licences outside of London, so even if they lose their licence in London, a passenger in the capital could book a taxi from elsewhere such as the municipality of Brighton and Sussex, and it would be perfectly above board. Subversive or not, it looks very much like Uber is here to stay for the foreseeable future.