Uber's ½ million strong petition against Khan's Proposed Blanket Ban
On Friday 22nd September, TfL declared Uber as not “fit and proper” due to its failures in terms of “public safety and security implications”. Uber is one of Silicon Valley’s most heralded and widely used new technology apps and the king of the shared economy. 500,000 people have so far signed their petition to repeal the decision. Has TfL taken the right course of action in the regulation of this industry?
Sadiq Khan’s Actions
The decision was backed by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan; employment rights campaigners and the union for black cab drivers who have been long term opponents of the US tech start up. TfL rejected Uber’s application to renew its licence due to its “approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility” in relation to the company failing to report serious criminal offences, obtaining medical certificates and providing sufficient driver background checks. TfL was also influenced in its decision by Uber’s use of Greyball, a software used to block regulatory bodies from gaining full access to its app and undertaking regulatory or law enforcement duties. Following these actions London is looking to follow in the footsteps of Austin, Texas and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil who have banned the company from its operations.
However, the decisions of Sadiq Khan and TFL are expected to put 40,000 drivers out of work who rely on the app for their job due to the “gig economy.” At the flick of his pen, the mayor has compromised the 3.5 million users of Uber. Uber is used extensively both by professionals across the city and for commercial use as well. The radio cab’s technological base allows them to significantly undercut the prices of traditional cab services and black cabs. With no need to pertain qualifications of “The Knowledge,” as black cab drivers do, Uber is far more affordable and hence far more popular. This blanket ban that comes into effect on the 30th September will cause serious inconveniences to the population of London who utilize Uber for their day to day travel needs.
Several Londoners have come out in defense of Uber. It is estimated that less than 30% of London’s tube networks are accessible to wheelchair users. For people with mobility reducing disabilities, the affordable services offered by Uber gave them freedom to travel in a faster and more efficient way across the city, cutting down on travel times if using buses and accessible stations. Also with the reductions of police patrols on the street and on public transport services, some fell threatened travelling alone and Uber provides these people an affordable alternative to get home safely.
Following Friday’s ban, 500,000 names have been added to Uber’s petition to repeal the blanket ban imposed on the service by TfL. Uber has 28 days to appeal the decision and the firm has promised to do exactly that. Uber executives have declared that Uber intends to continue its operations for months to come. TfL have stated that Uber can continue to operate in the near future as long as the appeals continue, despite their licence expiring on the 30th September.
The Future of Uber
Uber’s actions following TfL’s decision have accused the city of London of restricting consumer choice and is showing the world that, “far from being open, London is closed to innovative companies.” The US company has experienced opposition before all across the world, with Italy trying to ban the technology company before the decision was reversed following Uber’s appeal.
The US technology operates in 732 cities across the world and in over 84 countries. They have a massive customer base yet the actions in London are significant costing up to 3 and a half million. As London is a major world city with its sphere of influence, there is a threat it could lead to backlash in other countries. Strikes in mainland Europe have happened before due to the threats of Uber on traditional taxi services.
Amassed in Uber’s rapid growth comes several challenges such as the resignation of founder Travis Kalanick this July following his scandalous and heavily criticised management style; the landmark case in the UK that decalred Uber workers as employees and not self employed; and the $20m fine in the US for overpromising for the wages of drivers amongst others. As Uber grows, it is sure to face further opposition and difficulties but the most pressing matter is their operations in London. We can only wait and see what happens to the taxi service in our capital.
Link to Uber’s petition: https://www.change.org/p/save-your-uber-in-london-saveyouruber