Transport for London announced this morning that Uber’s application to renew their private hire operator licence has been rejected. TFL stated this was due to the app not being a ‘fit and proper’ operator, having demonstrated a ‘lack of corporate responsibility’.
Uber has faced consistent criticism for its practices, climaxing in 2016 when its workers won a legal battle for entitlement to the minimum wage and holiday pay. Despite this victory, it would seem that Uber have not initiated drastic enough changes to be deemed an ethically viable organization by TFL. The ruling means that Uber will be able to continue operating as usual for the next twenty-one days, after which their licence will expire.
Uber currently employs over 40,000 drivers and operates in 40 towns and cities throughout the UK. The company will be particularly damaged by this development with TFL as over 3.5 million Londoners currently use the app.
Although media coverage has primarily focussed on the role of workers in the company, the role of the consumer has been somewhat overlooked. For example, Uber has continually provided a cheap and safe way for students to get home after a night out. London students have expressed dismay at this ruling by TFL, stating that it will only increase the price of living in an already extortionate city. Lucy, a second-year student at UCL told Student Life Guide, “Uber has been a lifesaver so many times when I’ve lost my friends on a night out or had to go home early. London cabs are ridiculously expensive, slow to arrive and often not safe. Losing Uber will hit the student community hard.”.
David, a fourth year at Kings reinforced this idea, claiming “A lot of my female friends rely on Uber as a way of staying safe and getting home without hassle. Sure, they can use other official taxi companies but with many running on a meter this just seems financially implausible”. David did, however, recognize the necessity for Uber to change its conduct, adding “I get why TFL have done this. Uber has no right to treat their employees so badly, but I’d like it if TFL could also provide a viable and affordable alternative”.
Other cities are yet to comment on whether they will be enforcing similar restrictions but for now, at least, it appears that Uber’s availability in London will soon be a thing of the past.