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Uber and Out: Uber Loses London Licence

What’s Next for Cab Hailing Apps?

With the recent news that TfL have rejected Uber’s renewal of its private hire operator licence, what does the future hold for cab hailing apps? It appears these apps were previously hailed (pun intended) as the future of part-time, flexi-working that would offer the consumer lower fares and the drivers more flexibility.

However, recent news surrounding the poor reporting of serious criminal offences has led to TfL refusing their licence. This is similar to the recent situation surrounding Taxify, the Estonian cab app, which was forced to cease operations in London just three days after it launched, for lacking the proper private hire licences to operate in the city. It would seem that TfL are cracking down on hailing apps and looking to protect traditional black cab drivers who have been the main casualties of the rise of the cab hailing app.

There are a lot of other taxi apps out there that must now be looking over their shoulders for the looming figure of TfL, however, should they be? Short answer is, probably not. The reasons for Taxify and now Uber being shut down is due to them not meeting legal guidelines that had been set. Other apps such Hailo, the black cab app, and Gett, do not have this issue. This move by TfL is less of a stance against the taxi app and instead a move towards better enforcing regulations.

It could be argued that TfL has been out to get Uber from the start. Regular protests by black cab drivers, that have their fares set by TfL and are constantly losing customers to Uber’s cheaper fares, have been a thorn in the side of TfL for years now and with a number of negative stories coming out about Uber drivers and cover ups, even at board level, it was the perfect opportunity for TfL to stop the app from operating in London.

This, however, is unlikely to be the last we hear of Uber in London. Their spokesperson, Fred Jones, said today Uber plans to mount an appeal immediately, and the chances are that will be successful provided they solve the problems highlighted by TfL. But the insistence by TfL for these apps to look after their drivers and customers better is undoubtedly something that Uber and the like will have to think about going forward.

Cab apps will remain popular. Despite the poster-boy, Uber, being banned (for now), the apps are incredibly useful, convenient and most importantly cheap. By banning Uber, other apps will be taking up the slack and comply with regulation that TfL impose. 3.9 million now former Uber users will not simply go back to standing on the street, praying a cab comes around the corner. There is still a huge appetite among consumers for apps like this and that appetite is unlikely to albeit. The Uber brand may disappear but the mentality will not.

UPDATE:

Things have progressed at a rapid pace since the above was written. The inevitable appeal from Uber, backed by some 850,000 people signing an online petition, is now scheduled for the 13th October. Jo Bertram, Uber’s Head of Northern Europe leaving a day before Uber’s new Chief Executive arrived in London for talks with TfL bosses and now we have those talks with TfL bosses with the eventual aim of thrashing out some kind of a deal.

Lots of positive noises came out of the meetings with pithy phrases such as “determined to make things right” and “constructive” littering headlines for the past few days.  

Uber’s new chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi, who met with Mike Brown, Commissioner of TfL earlier this week said that Mr Brown was holding the talks with the taxi-hailing app firm’s global chief executive following an approach from the company and at London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s request.

On Tuesday, it was reported that the pair “are understood to have discussed measures Uber could take to resolve the dispute”.

A TfL spokesperson said: “Today’s (3rd October) constructive meeting centred on what needs to happen to ensure a thriving taxi and private hire market in London where everyone operates to the same high standards. Further steps in this process will take place over the coming weeks.”

It would appear that Uber’s ban may not last as long some people feared and others hoped.

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