Uber and Out

The tech taxi company, Uber is banned in London. The authorities say it is not a fit and proper business. But is this a political move that has more to do with protecting vested interests?


Uber and out.
The tech taxi company is banned in London.
It’s condemned as not a fit and proper organisation.

Hi, I’m Leon Hawthorne. The gig economy has suffered a massive blow as the London government regulator cancels Uber’s licence to operate.

Transport for London says Uber has demonstrated a lack of corporate responsibility and is not a fit and proper company to hold a private hire licence in the capital.

TfL did not elaborate, but this follows allegations Uber fails to conduct proper background checks on drivers, some of whom have carried out sexual offences against passengers.

Also, the controlling way Uber treats its drivers and its alleged use of computer software to avoid certain police actions against it.

Uber has denounced all criticism and says it will file an appeal in the courts, which will allow it to carry on trading, at least for several months.

At risk are 40,000 Uber drivers’ jobs in London; and the travel plans of 3.5 million Uber registered app users.

Recently, I had a conversation with the driver of a black cab. He told me he believed in free trade and competition. The problem was he could not compete with Uber because he couldn’t lower his fares, which are set by TfL. So, his hands were tied.

Obviously, Uber is a young tech start-up, which has grown to a massive scale in a short time period. Like many from Silicon Valley, its creators are tech geniuses, bucaneers, anarchists who love to disrupt every market they enter.

But it has come up against the vested interests of licensed taxi drivers and their Labour union friends, who now run the London Mayoralty and TfL.

Uber has not helped itself by failing to adopt ethical business practices, such as not employing sex offenders, criminal or illegal immigrants. And by allowing itself to be perceived as tax dodgers.

It seems to me: if the safety of passengers were the main concern of TfL, it could have imposed strict terms on Uber to make certain undertakings, subject to audit within a strict time period, or else face a ban.

Instead, TFL has fired a nuclear rocket at the heart of the gig economy, which could have a seismic ripple effect throughout the rest of the UK and Europe, as other cities follow suit.

The board of TFL is made up of political appointees, mostly in their 50s and 60s. No doubt, they have chauffeurs to drive them around, but they are a generation away and worlds apart from many young people who love the convenience of Uber and cannot afford the higher prices of London’s black cabs.

This was clearly a political decision and it must be reversed, if not by the courts, then by central government.

With Brexit on the horizon, this is a time London needs to be open to business, not shutting them down. And Uber needs to show as much concern for its passengers and drivers as it does for its bottom line.

I’m Leon Hawthorne. Thanks for watching.

Published by videobite2021

Journalist, broadcaster, media executive, academic, author.