London Bans Uber; Company Vows Court Challenge

In a stunning blow to the world's most valuable private company (purportedly worth some $70 billion), London's taxi and livery car regulator has said it won't renew Uber's operating license once it expires at the end of the month. The regulator said Uber "is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator license."

"TfL considers that Uber's approach and conduct demonstrates a lack of corporate responsibilit in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications. These include:

  • It's approach to reporting seriouis criminal offences.
  • It's approach to how medical certificates are obtained.
  • It's approach to how Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are obtained.
  • It's approach to explaining the use of Greyball in London, software that could be used to block regulatory bodies from gianing full access to the app and  prevent officials from undertaking regulatory or law enforcement duties."


Uber now has 21 days to appeal the decision.  "We intend to immediately challenge this in the courts," said Tom Elvidge, general manager of Uber in London, in a statement to Bloomberg. If the decision holds and Uber is forced to shutter its London operations, the estimated 40,000 Uber drivers working in London will need to seek employment elsewhere.

“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," said Elvidge. "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."

In a statement to the Financial Times, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: London mayor Sadiq Khan said: "All companies in London must play by the rules and adhere to the high standards we expect – particularly when it comes to the safety of customers. Providing an innovative service must not be at the expense of customer safety and security. I fully support TfL's decision."

The decision is a shot across the bow for Uber, which now has added prominent service disruption to its countless scandals. In particular, the London regulator cited the company's use of a clandestine software called Greyball as one reason for revoking its operating license. In March, the New York Times revealed that Uber has for years engaged in a program to deceive authorities in cities where its app was being resisted or banned by law enforcement. Uber reportedly used a tool, called Greyball, which uses data collected from Uber’s app and other techniques to identify and circumvent officials. The car-hailing company used these to evade authorities in cities such as Paris, Boston and Las Vegas, and in countries including Australia, China, South Korea and Italy. The blow from the regulator comes at a time when the company is trying to burnish its image. It recently hired Expedia’s Dara Khosrowshahi as its new chief executive in August after co-founder Travis Kalanick was forced to step aside after a series of scandals. Uber was also faulted for not properly reporting crimes and obtaining medical certifiications.

As Bloomberg points out, the decision is a victory for the city’s traditional black cab industry, which has been hurt by the proliferation of Uber drivers and has pushed for tighter regulation of the San Francisco-based ride-hailing service. Taxi drivers must go through extensive testing before receiving a license, while Uber drivers have fewer requirements.

The decision adds to the problems facing Khosrowshahi, who is already dealing with a host of lawsuits and US criminal probe into its Asia operations after several Uber executives bribed foreign officials to help obtain access to lucrative markets. Oh, it's also facing a federal investigation for allegedly spying on Lyft drivers.