Uber to lose ability to operate in London this week unless Transport for London grants new licence

Conrad Duncan
A car with an Uber logo on it drives down the street in New York, US: REUTERS

Uber is set to lose its ability to operate in London this week unless regulators renew its licence in the UK capital.

Transport for London (TfL) has not given an indication about its decision over the licence, which expires on Wednesday after a battle with the taxi app that began two years ago.

TfL previously removed Uber’s right to operate in the city in 2017 due to alleged failings in its approach to reporting serious criminal offences and driver background checks.

That decision prompted legal action, which led to a judge granting the Silicon Valley company a probationary 15-month licence in 2018 after it made several changes to its business model in London.

London is one of the most important markets for the firm in Europe.

A question submitted to Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, from a member of the city’s assembly calling for the suspension of Uber earlier this month is still awaiting a reply, according to the London Assembly’s website.

TfL said it does not comment on individual licence applications. Uber declined to comment on Friday and did not respond immediately to a request for comment on the issue on Monday.

If TfL chooses to strip the firm of its licence, it will almost certainly prompt an appeals process during which the app will be able to operate, as it did in 2017.

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At that time, TfL concluded that Uber had demonstrated “a lack of corporate responsibility” on public safety issues and was “not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence”.

Uber could be offered a licence up to a maximum of five years.

Benjamin Black, co-head of internet equity research at analysts Evercore ISI, said he thought it was unlikely Uber would lose its ability to operate in the city.

“If they lost the London licence, that would be a major blow... but we just don’t see it happening,” he said.

However, he added that the company was more likely to receive a shorter renewal.

“Judging by Ola [another ride-sharing firm] coming in and getting a 15-month licence, I think they’re going to be on the shorter cycles.”

Mr Khan has been critical of Uber in recent weeks and insisted that companies must play by the rules in London.

Speaking on LBC, the mayor told listeners: “You will know my track record which is standing up to the big boys, and they are boys, and making sure everyone plays by the rules.

“I don’t care how many lawyers you employ or how big your PR budget.”

Agencies contributed to this report

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