Uber out in London

With just over a week left on its current operating license Uber learned today that London no longer wants it around. Transport for London, the regulatory body that licenses private hire vehicles (among other roles) issued a statement that Uber is “not fit and proper to hold a private hire operating license” in the city. The company has a 21-day appeal window; operations may continue throughout the appeal process.

Transport for London's statement on denying the renewal of Uber's license to operate in the city.
Transport for London’s statement on denying the renewal of Uber’s license to operate in the city.

Among the specific concerns TfL detailed against the company are questions about driver qualifications and certification, crime reporting and medical certificates. Perhaps most notable is TfL specifically calling out Geryball and Uber’s use of that technology to evade regulators. It turns out that doesn’t play so well when the regulators have the opportunity to review the license at a later time.

As if often the case surrounding Uber the early responses are a mix between “but that’s the law” and “how will we ever get anywhere again?” as people try to figure out what’s next. And, of course, the taxi union knocks, too.

As a reasonably disinterested party I find that conversation/debate (though not really either as most are simply talking past the other) intriguing.

The fact that the appeal process exists and is detailed in the TfL statement suggests there is a decent chance things shift in the coming weeks. This is likely more an opening position in negotiations than a final ruling on the issue. But the clock is running and Uber is in the hot seat.

I will say that it is interesting reading this news in the context of a story out of Chicago bemoaning the rapid drop in taxi ridership and revenue. In that story the claim is made that taxi drivers are better ambassadors for the city. I find such assertions to be ridiculous at best. I’ve done my share of taxis and ride-hailing app drivers around the world. No one has a lock on helpfulness nor jackassery.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. I’ve said this in numerous places: I think this is key ==> “Uber’s conduct demonstrated a lack of corporate responsibility which could have potential public safety and security implications” — and it will be an interesting narrative. Uber has done itself no favours on a corporate or local level over the past year.

    1. Yup…the company keeps digging holes for itself, assuming that a sufficiently large user base (and economic impact) will beat any regulatory or licensing concerns. That’s a dangerous path to tread.

    2. Seth, MyTaxi is fighting back hard. The thing is, in London, the cab drivers are really pretty decent. It just came down to UberX being a lot less expensive than London cabs. Now, they are giving 50% off for the weekend, with MyTaxi and other huge incentive credits. My personal opinion is that the London cabs are going to align their prices to UberX… over time. Add to it, the angst European labour leaders feel with regard to Uber.. it’s not a pretty picture. Could Uber have possibly “poked the bear” one too many times? Only time will tell.

    3. I used the MyTaxi app twice earlier this month while visiting. Once was great and the other had far too long a wait time, though who knows if Uber would’ve been any better; I didn’t try it. In that case I actually hailed a cab on the street and still paid with my card so no real difference to me.

      And, yes, the pricing is key. Most consumers simply don’t give a damn about anything so long as they get what they want cheaper.

    4. Seth, all London taxis AFAIK are contactless and accept all cards (including AMEX), so it is really is not an issue. True, not having to tender is convenient (via an APP) but it’s not major delay…

  2. I’m a fan of the Uber premium car service in London. I usually get a very nice car and top notch driver experience for less than the cost of a black cab without feeling anxious about watching a meter spin to an alarming value.

  3. Hi, thanks for sharing and showing both sides the argument. I was a frequent user of Uber whilst I was in London, mostly the basic service but at times treating myself to the premium service which as David says has a op notch driver experience for less than the cost of a regular cab. Regards, Alastair Majury

    1. I agree that it will get sorted. That said, I pretty strongly disagree with Uber’s approach to things like background checks for drivers and actively trying to screw regulators rather than work with them to manage the experience.

      “Disruption” is fine, but there are still rules. And there are good consumer protection reasons for many of them.

    2. Agree. And it will be interesting to see how people react when Uber inevitably has to raise their prices to sustainable levels. I’m happy to see them play fast and loose with the rules for 50% off. But that’s not going to last…

    3. Although to me the big deal with Uber is their transparency in dispatching along with the iron fist of kicking out drivers who refuse too many rides. Solves the problem of drivers cherry-picking fares or refusing to pickup rides from areas they don’t like.

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