On Friday, Transport Authorities of London announced that it would not be renewing ride-hailing giant Uber’s license to operate in the city. Transport for London, the agency that oversees the city’s local commute modes and channels, declared that Uber was not sufficiently “fit and proper.” The designation carries significant weight in Britain. The authorities cited the company’s “lack of corporate responsibility” as the reason behind the unwillingness to renew the license, which expires on Sept. 30. Uber has, however, declared it will exercise its right to an appeal.
Right after the transport authorities made this announcement, Uber posted a petition on Change.org.
“By wanting to ban our app from the capital, Transport for London and their chairman, the Mayor, have given in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice. To defend the livelihoods of 40,000 drivers – and the consumer choice of millions of Londoners – sign this petition asking to reverse the decision to ban Uber in London,” it said.
Uber emailed its London users with the subject line: “Save your Uber in London.” By the end of the day, more than 410,000 people had signed their names to the petition.
Uber’s new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wrote in a Twitter post that Uber was “far from perfect” and urged London’s city regulators to work out a solution with the company.
Over the past few years Uber has been temporarily forced out of a few major markets, such as Delhi and Austin, Texas. Uber also voluntarily left China after selling its business there to a rival, Didi Chuxing. But it has never been asked to exit from a market as important as London. A ban on operating in one of its largest markets would certainly hit Uber’s bottom line. The company said it has 40,000 drivers and 3.5 million customers in London who use its app at least once every three months.
Losing the license to operate in London presents a major challenge for Khosrowshahi. In an email to Uber employees, Khosrowshahi said that he thought the 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.”