London’s transport authority has rejected Uber’s application to renew its license to operate private-hire vehicles in the British capital, it announced today. The ride-sharing firm has 40,000 drivers in the city, whose licenses will expire on Sept. 30. They will, however, be allowed to operate until all appeal processes have been exhausted. Uber has until Oct. 13 to appeal the decision.
Uber’s general manager in London, Tom Elvidge, said in a statement that its 3.5 million users in the city will be “astounded” by this decision. The company pledged to challenge the decision in court immediately. “If this decision stands, it will put more than 40,000 licensed drivers out of work and deprive Londoners of a convenient and affordable form of transport,” Elvidge said.
The rejection is a major blow to Uber because London is its biggest European market. The ride-sharing platform is currently operating under a four-month extension to its license, following a hike in fees from £3,000 for a five-year license to £3 million (from $4,000 to $4 million).
Transport for London said Uber’s failure to report “serious criminal offences” by its drivers and its use of the “Greyball” surveillance program, which tracked government officials hostile to the service, were among the reasons it rejected Uber’s license application. Uber’s drivers have been accused of dozens of sexual assaults.
London mayor Sadiq Khan supported the transport authority’s decision, saying that innovation must not come at the expense of customer safety.
Uber has been under pressure from politicians, led by Wes Streeting, a member of parliament who chairs a cross-party parliamentary group on taxis. Last week, the group had urged Transport for London to revoke Uber’s license. Streeting called today’s decision “courageous.”