Uber's licence to operate in London won't be renewed because its practices endanger public safety and security, the local regulator said Friday, in a blow to a company already facing big questions over its corporate culture.
Transport for London says the company, whose app is used by 3.5 million passengers and 40,000 drivers in London, isn't “fit and proper” to hold a licence to operate a private-hire vehicle service.
“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,” London mayor Sadiq Khan said in a statement supporting the decision.
He added: “Providing an innovative service must not be at the expense of customer safety and security.”
Uber has already moved to appeal the decision, which will allow the company to operate in the city until the process is concluded.
Uber's chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, wrote to staff on Friday confirming that the company would appeal against the ruling. He said he disagreed with the decision but it was based on past behaviour.
“The truth is that there is a high cost to a bad reputation,” he wrote. “It really matters what people think of us, especially in a global business like ours.
“It's critical that we act with integrity in everything we do, and learn how to be a better partner to every city we operate in. That doesn't mean abandoning our principles – we will vigorously appeal TfL's decision – but rather building trust through our actions and our behaviour.
“In doing so, we will show that Uber is not just a really great product, but a really great company that is meaningfully contributing to society, beyond its business and its bottom line.”
Uber, founded in 2010 in San Francisco, has often faced opposition as it expanded. Taxi drivers complain that Uber drivers don't have to comply with the same licensing standards, giving the ride-hailing service an unfair advantage and placing the public at risk.
The company, which provides a smartphone application that connects passengers with drivers who work as independent contractors, argues it isn't a traditional transportation company.
In its decision, Transport for London singled out Uber's approach to reporting serious criminal offences and how it conducts background checks on drivers. TfL also took issue with Uber's explanation of software that could be used to block regulators from gaining full access to the app and “prevent officials from undertaking regulatory or law enforcement duties.”
Police in London accused Uber last month of not reporting a sexual assault by a driver on a passenger, allowing the driver to strike again.
Metropolitan Police Inspector Neil Billany suggested in a letter that the company was putting concerns for its reputation over public safety.
At the time, Uber said it was surprised by the letter and that it had a good working relationship with the police. Uber’s chief executive will meet London’s transport comissioner, in an attempt to win back its licence.
Theresa May has criticised Transport for London’s decision not to renew Uber’s operating licence in London as “disporportionate”, in a step that will hamper the transport body’s efforts to wring concessions from the ride-hailing service.