Londoners are currently reacting to the surprise news that Transport For London (TfL) have decided not to renew Uber’s private hire licence, when its current one expires on 30th September. TfL believes that Uber has demonstrated a ‘lack of corporate responsibility’, concerning several issues that could have potential public safety and security implications.

These include:

  • Uber’s approach to reporting serious criminal offences
  • Their approach to obtaining medical certificates
  • Their approach to obtaining enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service checks.

In other words, Uber wasn’t demonstrating to TfL that it was doing enough to report serious offences committed by any of its drivers. It also wasn’t doing enough to show that it was undertaking thorough background checks.

TfL has also criticised the way Uber uses ‘Greyball’ (software that could be used to prevent regulatory bodies gaining full access to their app). TfL are concerned that Greyball could prevent it from undertaking its statutory duties as a regulator.

Uber have 21 days to appeal against this decision. It’s already indicated it will. Uber’s licence to operate will stay in place pending the appeal, so there’s no danger (yet) of the app going dead at the end of next week. Uber has also indicated that it’ll apply for a Judicial Review, and is organising an online petition to protest against the decision.

However, in all the fuss, it’s very important to recognise what TfL is actually objecting to. TfL is not objecting to Uber’s business model. It’s saying that Uber isn’t meeting specific regulatory standards. TfL have to ensure that Uber is complying with the terms of its licence. And, Uber certainly has the ability to comply with TfL’s areas of concern, while still making a significant profit under its current business model.

It’s likely that Uber will now seek to appeal, while quietly addressing the concerns raised by TfL. So, the approximately 40,000 drivers in London working for Uber will still be able to continue to do so (for the time being).

But, in a recent Employment Tribunal case regarding worker status (which Uber lost), it maintained that all of its drivers were not workers, but self-employed. The difficulty for these drivers if Uber fails to get a new licence will be finding work with another company that can provide them with the work they’ve lost.