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LONDON – There’s a chance you won’t be able to use Uber in London after next week.
The ride-hailing company faces the possibility of losing its licence to operate in London, with a decision from the capital’s transport regulator potentially coming today, a source told Business Insider.
London is Uber’s biggest market in the UK, with around 40,000 registered drivers, according to figures given by the company. But if Transport for London (TfL) decides not to renew Uber’s operator’s licence in the capital, the company will have to can its operations in London. The firm currently holds a four-month operator’s licence, and is awaiting an imminent decision over a new five-year licence.
The source told Business Insider he didn’t believe Uber would be given a five-year licence. Another likely possibility is that Uber will be granted another shorter licence.
It will be a shock for Uber if TfL decides not to grant the licence at all. The app is hugely popular among Londoners who view it as a cheap, more convenient alternative to black cabs, especially at night when Underground service is reduced.
But political pressure is building against Uber:
Black cab drivers, Uber’s own drivers, and politicians have all been hugely critical of the company, and this may influence TfL’s final decision. Some MPs have called for Uber to be banned. Three TfL board members are in favour of cancelling. And the London Assembly has unanimously voted to ban Uber.
Black taxi drivers argue that Uber has undercut them and operates illegally by plying for hire. They also argue passengers are less safe with Uber drivers, citing reports of sexual assault.
And some Uber drivers have complained about long hours and poor pay. Uber’s other major challenge next week is its appeal against November’s tribunal ruling that drivers qualify as “workers”, not self-employed.
Finally, political pressure on the company is growing. Several politicians have openly criticised Uber’s practices. Labour MP Frank Field described Uber’s contracts with drivers as “gibberish,” and his colleague Wes Streeting has called for the firm to be stripped of its licence. There are also questions about how Uber structures its business to avoid paying tax in the UK.
Uber declined to comment.