Storm in an Uber cup

By Torsten Brose | Business Development Director | Magenta Technology

I’ve been watching with amusement the fallout from the Uber licence suspension debacle, so let’s start with some simple facts:

Firstly, Uber’s licence has been pulled for blatant disregard of the rules around reporting sexual complaints by passengers or investigating them properly. They’ve also failed to cooperate with the police while they’re attempting to investigate complaints against drivers.

This has nothing to do with the black cab lobby, or anything other than Uber’s lack of corporate responsibility. Any Private Hire Company would have its licence pulled for this, and suggesting it’s irresponsible of TFL to take action on something so serious just because you might not to be able to get a cab within five minutes is just plain ridiculous.

Listening to the comments going around on Facebook, Twitter, etc, you’d think Uber is some kind of saint, offering vital services for Londoners out of the kindness of its heart, instead of being an unethical monster that has publicly treated its staff and drivers appallingly whilst using other people’s money to hold prices unrealistically low in order to destroy fair competition.

“Save our Uber” petition……you have got to be kidding me! What’s even funnier is how my metropolitan socialist friends – who you’d expect to be outraged by the way Uber has behaved – can’t wait to sign up in case they have to spend £5 more on a cab back from the Groucho club.

In the end, though, all this talk is irrelevant as TFL will never stick to its guns at appeal, Uber will have thrown lots of other people’s money, high priced solicitors and its influential friends in high places, at getting this overturned. Experience elsewhere in the world tells us Uber rarely fails when throwing its might against lowly public servants.

Lastly, something that isn’t so well known, TFL has recently changed the cost of Private Hire licences in London and intends to charge Uber £3m, up from around £2,500. If anyone can tell me that TFL will ban a company that’ll pay more in licence fees than every other PVH company put together, I’ll tell you you’re dreaming.

So there we have it; it’s all a pile of nonsense. TFL has to try to look tough in the light of Uber’s behaviour, but we all know it will cave in hopelessly at appeal…..a shot over the rail, nothing more. If, for a moment, we play “what if”, there are a number of far more ethical copycats waiting in the wings. In the strange fantasy world where TFL actually doesn’t grant Uber a licence at appeal, I’d suggest we’d be better off with any one of these alternatives.