Half a million people have signed an online petition in under 24 hours backing Uber’s bid to stay on roads of London, showing the company is turning to its tried-and-tested tactic of asking customers for help when it locks horns with regulators.
The British capital’s transport regulator, Transport for London (TfL) stunned the powerful start-up on Friday when it deemed Uber unfit to run a taxi service for safety reasons and stripped it of its license from next week, although it can continue to operate while it appeals.
TfL cited Uber’s failure to report serious criminal offices, conduct sufficient background checks on drivers and other safety issues, threatening the firm’s presence in one of the world’s wealthiest cities.
Uber immediately emailed users in London and urged them to sign the petition that said the city authorities had “caved in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice.”
One MP has said he believes TfL’s decision was a result of “vested interests.” Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday (September 23), Ed Vaizey, the Conservative MP for Wantage, said: “We know black cabs have been lobbying vigorously to have Uber shut down… I think this decision is a result of vested interests.”
Uber now faces a showdown with London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan, who this month said he wouldn’t let his teenage daughters use cabs like Uber on their own over fears for their safety.
Khan, who is also a chairman of TfL, said: “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, in the view of TfL, to act as a fit and proper operator.
“I suspect it will take some time before this situation with Uber fully plays out. In the meantime, I will continue my work to help support innovative businesses in London and to create a vibrant and safe taxi and private hire market.”
TfL’s decision is the first major challenge for new Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over from co-founder and ex-CEO Travis Kalanick. He was forced out after internal and external investigations into sexual harassment complaints, the thwarting of government inquiries and potential bribery.