Uber ban, what now?


The story so far…

Unless you have been living under a rock the past week you would’ve heard about Transport for London’s (TfL) decision to not renew the operating licence of one of the most innovative Silicon Valley start-up, the ride-hailing taxi app ‘Uber’. TfL refused to offer the firm another 5 years of private hire operating licence claiming that the company lacks corporate responsibility and places passengers in danger by not reporting incidents that it deems not to be serious enough and it does not carry out proper background checks on drivers. Uber has vigorously denied these allegations & said it will be appealing TfL’s decision.

Uber went on to claim TfL’s decision to strip its licence means up to 40,000 Uber drivers in London are at risk of being made unemployed and over 3.5 million Londoners who rely on its reliable service and affordable price will be left worse off. The company set up a petition on Change.org titled ‘Save Your Uber in London’ which has already obtained over a million signatures, the fastest-growing petition ever recorded on the site, Kajal Odedra, UK director at Change.org said. I also understand from various online sources that over 20,000 Uber drivers have emailed the mayor of London; Sadiq Khan to protest against TfL’s decision, Khan defended TfL’s decision last week.

Since then Uber’s recently recruited American-Iranian chief Executive, Dara Khosrowshahi has apologised for the firm’s mistakes in London and promised to change, he has also said that he is considering visiting London to meet TfL leaders & regulators with the aim of resolving this matter.

Uber’s London operating licence came to an end on 29/09/17 but it will be able to operate as normal during the appeal process which could take months (or possibly even years). So its drivers and users are unlikely to be adversely affected anytime soon but if the worst happens & Uber losses the case, below are current alternatives (and I’m sure in time more competitors will crop up to exploit the huge gap left by Uber).

Best Uber alternatives…

Gett

Gett is a great alternative to Uber which offers flat pricing and operates using licensed taxi drivers.

It also operates outside of London, which is unique to both Gett and Uber.

Find out more: Gett

Kabbee

Londoners can also take advantage of a service called Kabbee, a minicab firm that promises to help you “travel safely for a fixed price”.

It’s available on both iOS and Android, and supposedly saves you 65% on journey prices compared to London’s black cabs.

Find out more: Kabbee

Addison Lee

Addison Lee actually pre-dates Uber, but higher prices have meant that Uber grew rapidly in London while Addison Lee stagnated.

Still, Addison Lee has improved over time and has a fairly intuitive app that lets you order cabs without having to speak to anyone over the phone.

The main advantage with Addison Lee is the fact that pricing is fixed, so it’s regularly used by businesses or anyone travelling to and from an airport. That’s in contrast to Uber, which will regularly employ surge pricing to squeeze every last penny out of a busy area.

Find out more: Addison Lee

MyTaxi

MyTaxi is the result of a merger with Hailo, and is available in mobile app form.

It’s similar to Uber, and even comes with an offer code that saves you £10 on your first journey – myfirstmytaxi.

Mytaxi is also offering a deal where you get 50% off fares, in a speedy and welcome response to TfL’s Uber ruling.

Find out more: MyTaxi

Taxify

Taxify is a recent addition to London’s taxi service arsenal (launching earlier this month), but has already been forced to suspend operations.

That said, if Taxify can get back up and running, then you’ll be able to pay for rides through an app, as well as paying with either cash or a credit/debit card.

Find out more: Taxify

Lyft

Lyft is arguably Uber’s biggest competition, but the downside is that it doesn’t operate in London – or even the UK.

That said, it’s a highly similar proposition to Uber, and Uber’s recent London woes could prompt Lyft to finally cross the Atlantic and set up shop in Britain’s capital.

The exciting news is that Freedom of Information records show that Lyft has already held high-level talks with officials at Transport for London and City Hall, which could be a sign that the firm is hoping to enter the UK market sooner rather than later.

Find our more: Lyft

Other countries and cities where Uber is banned or suspended…

Bulgaria

Uber suspended services after being accused of “unfair trade practices”. The chairperson of the transport committee, Grozdan Karadzhov said that if Uber wants to return to the Bulgarian market, it will have to meet the minimum requirements of legislation and register as a taxi service.

Italy

Uber will soon be completely banned from the country, after its business practices were found to “constitute unfair competition”. Uber’s services have been blocked, and it is not allowed to advertise. The company is permitted to continue operating until a final court ruling is made, but that time will soon run out.

Denmark

Taxi metres have been made mandatory for Danish taxi drivers, meaning Uber was forced to pull out of the market this year after operating there since 2014.

Hungary

The Hungarian government passed legislation saying that Uber drivers “breached regulations other taxi firms must adhere to” after allowing them to operate for two and a half years. The new law permits the Hungarian national communications authority to block internet access to “illegal dispatcher services”.

Austin, Texas

The company pulled operations from the Texas city after being told to fingerprint and background check all prospective and current drivers, which it said did nothing to improve safety and penalised minorities.

Alaska

Uber operated for six months in the state, before pulling out over a dispute as to whether drivers were independent contractors or registered taxi drivers – which would mean they are entitled to workers’ compensation insurance. Uber paid a $77,925 (£60,000) fine to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development over the dispute, before abandoning the Alaskan market. New legislation could change that, but for now the state remains Uber-less.

Vancouver, British Columbia

Ride share apps are not legal in Vancouver. The Liberal Party promised earlier in the year to move forward with legalisation and make Uber possible in the city by Christmas. Transport Minister Todd Stone said: “We think we are striking a balance between what the vast majority of British Columbians want…all the while…respect[ing] the industry that’s been there for so many generations and get this right to protect the jobs that already exist.”

China

The company was losing huge amounts of money in the Chinese market, and it was bought out by Chinese competitor Didi Chuxing after allegedly losing billions of dollars.

Taiwan

Services were suspended after Uber faced millions of dollars’ worth of fines by the government. However, it has reached an agreement to use rental car agencies on the ground under the Uber brand, but the service remains limited.

Northern Territory (Australia)

The territory has completely banned Uber after refusing to change the law to accommodate the app’s legality. It will allegedly re-evaluate this at a later date but, for now, Uber remains out in the cold.

Suspensions

Uber has also faced suspensions in Finland, France, Spain and the Netherlands, primarily over its UberPOP service. Barcelona’s main taxi operator accused the company of running an illegal taxi service and is currently awaiting a ruling from the European Court of Justice.

 

Nazrul Hoque – 1 October 2017

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