Transport for London says won’t renew Uber’s licence to operate in the capital when its current licence expires at the end of September, saying the firm “is not fit” to operate in the capital.
In a statement the capital’s transport agency said: “TfL’s regulation of London’s taxi and private hire trades is designed to ensure passenger safety.
“Private hire operators must meet rigorous regulations, and demonstrate to TfL that they do so, in order to operate. TfL must also be satisfied that an operator is fit and proper to hold a licence.
“TfL has concluded that Uber London Limited is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence.”
TfL said its decision was based on “a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications,” including Uber’s approach to reporting serious criminal offences, the way in which Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are obtained and its use of ‘Greyball’ – software that could be used to block regulatory bodies from gaining full access to the app and prevent officials from undertaking regulatory or law enforcement duties.
Under the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 Uber is entitled to appeal today’s decision within 21 days and can continue to operate until the appeal process has been exhausted.
TfL says it would make “no further comment” pending any appeal.
Mayor Sadiq Khan, who chairs TfL but plays no part in licensing decisions, said: “I want London to be at the forefront of innovation and new technology and to be a natural home for exciting new companies that help Londoners by providing a better and more affordable service.
“However, 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 – it would be wrong if TfL continued to license Uber if there is any way that this could pose a threat to Londoners’ safety and security.
“Any operator of private hire services in London needs to play by the rules.”
Today’s decision has also been backed by the the GMB union which has successfully sued the firm over the rights of its 40,000 drivers which it claims are independent workers rather than employees.
Maria Ludkin, GMB Legal Director, said: “This historic decision is a victory for GMB’s campaign to ensure drivers are given the rights they are entitled to – and that the public, drivers and passengers are kept safe.
“As a result of sustained pressure from drivers and the public, Uber has suffered yet another defeat – losing its license to operate in London. It’s about time the company faced up to the huge consequences of GMB’s landmark employment tribunal victory – and changed its ways.
“No company can be behave like it’s above the law, and that includes Uber. No doubt other major cities will be looking at this decision and considering Uber’s future on their own streets.
“GMB will always challenge bogus self-employment and tackling exploitation. This decision vindicates our campaign and should be a wake-up call to a company that has for far too long been in denial.”
Steve McNamara, General Secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, said TfL “has made the right call not to relicense Uber.
“Since it first came onto our streets Uber has broken the law, exploited its drivers and refused to take responsibility for the safety of passengers.
“We expect Uber will again embark on a spurious legal challenge against the Mayor and TfL, and we will urge the court to uphold this decision. This immoral company has no place on London’s streets”.
Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member, Caroline Pidgeon AM, said: “This decision has not been made lightly by TfL, and indeed they temporarily extended Uber’s licence to ensure extra time was granted to fully examine the record of this company.
“Passenger safety must come first. Sadly Uber has not given sufficient attention to the safety of passengers, their drivers or other road users. The evidence about their poor record cannot be ignored.
“Instead of devoting so much effort to challenging this decision in the courts it would be far better if Uber went away and looked at their working practices.”
Jennette Arnold OBE AM, Chair of the London Assembly, said: “We welcome Transport for London’s decision not to renew Uber’s licence. The London Assembly unanimously agreed for the licence not to be renewed, unless the company improved its working practices.
“Londoners’ safety must come first and the Assembly was concerned about the effects of Uber’s practices on its own drivers, other private hire operators and the London licenced taxi trade.
“If Uber wants to operate in London in the future, it really must up its game, in terms of safety and its working conditions.”
In a statement Tom Elvidge, General Manager of Uber in London, said: “3.5 million Londoners who use our app, and more than 40,000 licensed drivers who rely on Uber to make a living, will be astounded by this decision.
“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. 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.
“To defend the livelihoods of all those drivers, and the consumer choice of millions of Londoners who use our app, we intend to immediately challenge this in the courts.
“Drivers who use Uber are licensed by Transport for London and have been through the same enhanced DBS background checks as black cab drivers. Our pioneering technology has gone further to enhance safety with every trip tracked and recorded by GPS.
“We have always followed TfL rules on reporting serious incidents and have a dedicated team who work closely with the Metropolitan Police. As we have already told TfL, an independent review has found that ‘greyball’ has never been used or considered in the UK for the purposes cited by TfL.
“Uber operates in more than 600 cities around the world, including more than 40 towns and cities here in the UK. This ban would show the world that, far from being open, London is closed to innovative companies who bring choice to consumers.”