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Uber Crashes Into UK Regulators, Loses London LicenseUber Crashes Into UK Regulators, Loses London License

Ride-hailing app developer is stripped of its operating license in London.

Iain Morris

September 22, 2017

3 Min Read
Uber Crashes Into UK Regulators, Loses London License

Uber's UK business hit a surprise roadblock Friday after authorities in London said it would no longer be allowed to provide services in the UK capital because it was "not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator license."

Uber's existing license is due to expire on September 30, but the company has said it will appeal against the decision. It will be allowed to continue operating in London while that appeals process runs its course.

Besides blowing a hole in Uber's business, the ruling could have ramifications for thousands of drivers who work for the company as well as the millions of Londoners who have come to rely on its services.

Often cited as an example of the impact that digitalization is having on traditional industries, Uber is known internationally for its ride-hailing app technology, which connects smartphone users needing transport with drivers of privately owned vehicles.

The company is often described as the world's largest taxi firm, even though it owns no vehicles and counts none of its drivers as full-time employees.

Today's decision by Transport for London (TfL) is the latest setback for Uber, whose reputation has taken a series of knocks in the past few months.

Co-founder Travis Kalanick was recently forced to quit as CEO following allegations of sexism, reports that Uber had tried to mislead regulatory authorities and charges that it stole intellectual property from Google.

In a statement, TfL said that: "Uber's approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications."

The London transport authority reckons Uber has fallen short of requirements when it comes to reporting serious criminal offences and complying with healthcare regulations.

It also expressed concern about Uber's Greyball software -- the same issue that has already landed Uber in trouble with regulatory authorities in the US, Uber's domestic market.

TfL fears that Greyball could be used to prevent regulatory authorities from gaining full access to the Uber app, with consequences for officials trying to carry out "law enforcement duties."

For all the latest news from the wireless networking and services sector, check out our dedicated mobile content channel here on Light Reading.

The UK move comes after the European Court of Justice said in May that Uber should be regulated as a transport company and not a technology one. It has already been forced to cease operations in European markets including Denmark and Hungary because of regulatory hostility.

Uber has lashed out at UK authorities in comments widely reported in the mainstream press.

"Far from being open, London is closed to innovative companies," it is reported to have said in a statement. "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 … We intend to immediately challenge this in the courts."

While consumers and Uber drivers will be aghast, London's mini-cab drivers, who have lobbied aggressively against the Internet company, will be delighted at today's regulatory decision.

— Iain Morris, News Editor, Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Iain Morris

International Editor, Light Reading

Iain Morris joined Light Reading as News Editor at the start of 2015 -- and we mean, right at the start. His friends and family were still singing Auld Lang Syne as Iain started sourcing New Year's Eve UK mobile network congestion statistics. Prior to boosting Light Reading's UK-based editorial team numbers (he is based in London, south of the river), Iain was a successful freelance writer and editor who had been covering the telecoms sector for the past 15 years. His work has appeared in publications including The Economist (classy!) and The Observer, besides a variety of trade and business journals. He was previously the lead telecoms analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit, and before that worked as a features editor at Telecommunications magazine. Iain started out in telecoms as an editor at consulting and market-research company Analysys (now Analysys Mason).

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