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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Blame the company, not me, says London's mayor after Uber ban

Sadiq Khan responds after more than 500,000 people sign an online petition protesting a decision by regulators to end the taxi-hailing service's licence to operate

Transport for London has decided not to renew Uber's lease for operating in the British capital. REUTERS/Toby Melville/Illustration/File Photo
Transport for London has decided not to renew Uber's lease for operating in the British capital. REUTERS/Toby Melville/Illustration/File Photo

The Mayor of London advised more than 500,000 people protesting the decision to ban taxi service Uber from the capital to turn their anger on the company for its failure to address safety and security issues.

Transport regulators in London on Friday made the surprise announcement to end the licence of the popular phone app-based service on September 30, citing its failure to carry out proper health and criminal records checks on its drivers or report serious offences.

The service – which has significantly undercut the prices of London’s black cab fleet, one of the most expensive in the world – prompted anger among Uber customers who have answered the company’s call to sign an online petition protesting the decision.

Uber claimed that the ban showed the world that “London is far from being open and is closed to innovative companies”. The company says it has 3.5 million customers in the capital and nearly 550,000 had signed up by Saturday afternoon.

The protest prompted the mayor, Sadiq Khan, to issue a statement on Saturday supporting the decision to end the licence while accepting that the service would be able to continue beyond the September 30 deadline until the appeals process was exhausted. He indicated that was likely to take some time.

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Mr Khan said that the regulator had concluded that Uber’s conduct meant that it was not fit and proper to hold a private hire licence. The company has some 40,000 drivers on its books, but has been the subject of a fierce campaign against the service by traditional black cab drivers, who say they are subject to much tighter rules and regulations.

“As Mayor of London I welcome innovative new companies that help Londoners by providing a better and more affordable service – but providing an innovative service is not an excuse for not following the rules,” said Mr Khan.

“I have every sympathy with Uber drivers and customers affected by this decision but their anger really should be directed at Uber. They have let down their drivers and customers by failing.... to act as a fit and proper operator.”

Uber drivers are categorised as self-employed which means Uber has little responsibility for them, or ensuring that they receive a fair wage. The company has been accused of ramping prices during high demand for fares, such as in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in London in June.

The company claimed that the regulator had caved into a “small number of people” who want to restrict consumer choice, in an apparent reference to the campaign by the existing black cab market.

The GMB union, which represents black cab drivers, said that “other major cities will be looking at this decision and considering Uber’s future on their own streets.”

A survey of 80 global cities in July, found that London's taxis were the sixth most expensive in the world, behind only two Swiss cities, Tokyo, Copenhagen and Helsinki.

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