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Uber Loses License to Operate in London

September, 23, 2017

LONDON — Uber’s history of scandals and disregard for local rules finally caught up with it on Friday, when London declined to renew the ride-hailing company’s license to operate in the city, its largest European market.

Transport for London, the agency that oversees the city’s subways, buses and taxicabs, declared that Uber was not sufficiently “fit and proper.” The designation carries significant weight in Britain.

The decision, which Uber plans to appeal, raises the possibility that other cities could be emboldened to crack down on the company. Over the past few years, Uber has been temporarily forced out of a few major markets, like Delhi in India and Austin, Tex. Uber also voluntarily left China after selling its business there to a rival, Didi Chuxing. But it had never been told to leave a market as important as London.

Losing the license to operate in London presents a major challenge for Uber’s new chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, who replaced its founder, Travis Kalanick, in August. The company has faced an array of controversies over the past year or so, including charges of insufficient background checks on drivers, the use of software to evade the gaze of the authorities, and complaints of an aggressive, unrestrained workplace culture.

In an email to Uber employees obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Khosrowshahi said that he thought the London decision was unfair, but that “the truth is that there is a high cost to a bad reputation.” He added that “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.”

A ban on operating in one of its largest markets would certainly hit Uber’s bottom line. The company said it had 40,000 drivers and 3.5 million customers in London who used its app at least once every three months.

Mr. Khosrowshahi, in a Twitter post on Friday afternoon, acknowledged that Uber was “far from perfect” and urged city regulators to work out a solution with the company.

- The New York Times