Uber dodges a bullet in London

Since September of last year, a battle has been brewing in London over the ridesharing service Uber. After complaints from the Black Cab service and the union of taxi drivers, the city government began making accusations against Uber, eventually declaring that they wouldn’t renew their license to operate in the city. Very dubious accusations were made about Uber’s drivers, but the company appealed and now, after informing the city that they have addressed the problems, their license is being renewed, albeit on a shorter term. (New York Post)


Uber was granted a new shorter, license to operate in London on Tuesday after a judge said it had made the changes required to be deemed fit and proper, after its earlier application was denied last year.

Transport for London (TfL) refused to give the Silicon Valley taxi firm a five-year operating license last September, citing failings in its approach to reporting serious criminal offenses and to background checks on drivers.

But Judge Emma Arbuthnot at Westminster Magistrates Court ruled that Uber could operate in London on a 15-month license, subject to strict conditions.

Uber has admitted that TfL’s decision to deny it a license last year was the right one, but insists changes in policy and personnel justified the award of a shorter license to prove it had changed.

Not having the same rights to appeal and operate freely as a company does in America, Uber was basically forced to bend the knee (in Game of Thrones terms) and agree to London’s demands in order to stay in business. This included “admitting” that they needed to do more about crimes committed by their drivers, running background checks differently and paying all of the court costs for appealing their case. (That’s over half a million dollars.) But at least they get to operate for another fifteen months.


It’s worth remembering how all this started to see just what a rotten deal this was. The original complaint was that Uber’s drivers were on some sort of crime spree. But as we covered back in September, it took very little checking to find out that whatever random crimes may have been committed by Uber drivers there, the Black Cabs drivers were just as bad if not worse.

It turns out that there were a lot more assaults than that in cabs in 2015 and, in fact, long before Uber opened up for business. (The Standard)

Over 400 taxi or private hire drivers were charged with criminal offences last year, official figures show.

In 2015, charges were brought against 413 drivers, with 126 accused of violent or sexual offences.

The data, released by the Metropolitan Police under Freedom of Information (FOI) laws, also showed that between 2011 and 2015, a total of 1,948 drivers were charged with criminal offences.

Of these, 521 were charged with violent or sexual offences, which can include grievous bodily harm or rape.

The supposed crime rate wasn’t the only tactic they attempted in their efforts to shut Uber down. When that angle seemed to be faltering, the city raised claims that Uber drivers were simply not up to the task of driving people around the historic city of London. Why? Because drivers who rely on apps rather than “knowing their way around the city” can’t deliver the same type of service as the Black Cabs who do it from memory and can recite interesting details.


Here’s one thing the amazing memory of the Black Cabs driver can’t do: tell you when there’s an accident a mile ahead so you can take an alternate route and get the customer to the destination faster.

This whole thing has the smell of a total farce. There are nearly four million registered Uber users in London. If they lost their service they were going to be ticked off. I wonder how much that influenced the final decision not to boot Uber as the taxi drivers and their union wanted?

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David Strom 8:00 AM | July 25, 2024