On 22 September 2017, Transport for London ("TfL") concluded that Uber, the ride-hailing app, will not be issued a new private hire licence after expiry of its current licence on 30 September 2017.
TfL explained that Uber is "not fit and proper" to hold a licence. This stems from TfL's view 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". TfL's licensing decision cites various criticisms, including Uber's approach to reporting criminal offences and how medical certificates and Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service ("EDBS") checks were obtained.
This decision was surprising for many. Uber's general manager for London, Tom Elvidge, 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."
London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, supported TfL's decision by stating "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. It would be wrong if TfL continued to licence Uber if there is any way that this could pose a threat to Londoners' safety and security."
TfL is now facing accusations that some of the criticisms it gave for revoking the licence (e.g. medical certificates and EDBS checks) are not in fact based on public safety. TfL is allegedly responsible for both vetting the backgrounds of all private hire drivers and ensuring that they are medically fit before issuing them with a licence, therefore this part of the process is not handled by Uber.
However, in relation to Uber's approach in reporting criminal offences (a criticism referred to in TfL's decision), when asked why Uber does not report criminal offences directly to the police as opposed to notifying TfL first, which prolongs the process, Uber explained that they will "follow the rules". Uber has now apologised for its mistakes in an open letter and has offered to make changes and address the various criticisms. Mr Elvidge said "we're always willing to talk to Transport for London and the Mayor. While we haven't been asked to make any changes, we would like to know what we can do. But that requires a dialogue we sadly haven't been able to have recently."
Since the decision on 22 September 2017, more than 760,000 people have signed an online petition to reverse TfL's decision.
Uber has 21 days from 22 September 2017 to appeal the decision and it has stated that it will immediately challenge the decision in the courts. It will be fascinating to see what the outcome of any challenge would be, and what a ruling to uphold TfL's decision could mean for the 'gig-economy' on the whole.
In the meantime, Londoners can continue to use Uber as usual until any challenge is concluded.