Uber has been granted a temporary licence to operate in London for 15 months subject to a raft of conditions - but it is still fighting for a foothold in other cities across Europe and the US
For many people, cheap taxis that can be ordered instantly via an app are a great addition to the world – but Uber has regularly been forced to defend itself.
It came within a whisker of being banned in London after licence holder Transport for London (TFL) refused to renew its five-year permit in September last year due to concerns over its business practices.
But the ride-hailing app had something to celebrate yesterday as it was given a 15-month temporary operating licence after swaying Westminster Magistrates’ Court and TFL in its appeal against the decision.
Concerns held against Uber included the way it reported serious crime, while the public transport body was also none too pleased about news in November 2017 of a data breach at the company that was reported to have impacted more than 57 million users.
Uber UK general manager Tom Elvidge said: “We are pleased with the decision. We will continue to work with TfL to address their concerns and earn their trust, while providing the best possible service for our customers.”
But the UK capital is not the only place where the app could be driven out of town should it not meet regulatory and political demands – here we look at seven key markets in which it’s on shaky ground.
Starting with its most recent battle, Uber has won on some level with an effective 15-month trial to win back trust with London’s authorities.
Under the new temporary licence provided, the taxi app has to report data breaches to TfL as well as filing an independently checked report on the company every six months.
Uber has enforced a six-hour break for its driver after 10 hours of work and said it will report serious crimes directly to police, rather than through TfL, following its overturned ban.
In a statement on the decision, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “I fully supported Transport for London’s decision not to renew Uber’s operating licence last September – I believe everyone must play by the same rules, no matter how big or powerful they are.
“Uber has been put on probation – its 15-month licence has a clear set of conditions that TfL will thoroughly monitor and enforce.
“As a result of us standing up for Londoners, Uber has been forced to overhaul the way it operates not just in London but across the world, including completely changing its global governance structures and implementing new systems for reporting alleged crimes.”
While Uber has the all-clear to operate in London for now, it does have to meet fairly stringent criteria and could face another ban were it to fail to do so.
Uber returned to the Texan titan earlier this month, following a year-long exit from the city when it pushed for the fingerprinting of drivers as part of background checks.
The city is no longer allowed to regulate ride-sharing firms, following the passage of a bill transferring that power to the Texas state legislature.
While this move will stop Austin city authorities putting any major roadblocks in front of Uber, they could still make life difficult for the tech mammoth if the political will is there.
Uber will also have to comply with local regulations requiring the ride-hailing app to pay for an operating licence and perform background checks on the drivers using its service every year.
The English seafront city Brighton followed the tracks of London by refusing to renew Uber’s license when it expired in May this year.
After ruling in November 2017 that the app could continue turning over for six months, local authorities decided it would not renew the firm’s operating permit due to the colossal data breach that made headlines towards the end of last year.
Uber has taken out an appeal against the decision, which allows it to keep running its service in Brighton until a court decides whether the decision to ban the app should be upheld or dropped.
Uber and Denmark have a fractious history. When the Nordic state introduced a rule that demanded all taxis and private hire vehicles should have fare meters installed, Uber decided to take its toys and go home.
It was also slapped with fines by various courts in the country around the time of its departure in 2017.
Now the company is looking to re-establish itself in Denmark with an acceptance of past mistakes, according to the Danish newspaper Berlingske.
The report refers to the company having a willingness to “do things right” on its comeback to the country – although it is unclear how many regulations Uber would be happy to withstand.
In the nation of iberté, fraternité and egalité, you will not have much chance to use the UberPop service – which connects customers with drivers offering unlicensed lifts to their destination.
France banned the controversial offering in 2014 and faced a legal appeal from Uber against the decision.
In April of this year, the European Court of Justice declared that the French government were allowed to block the service.
Uber does run its regular, licensed services in the country and announced last month that it would be creating an advanced technologies lab in Paris focusing on Uber Elevate – its flying transport project.
It will be interesting to see if the French love of regulation is strong enough under Macron to shoot that scheme out of the sky.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expressed a clear view of Uber earlier this month, saying the app was “finished” and “did not exist anymore” in a speech reported by Reuters.
Erdoğan reportedly reached the decision under pressure from Turkish taxi drivers who opposed the ride-hailing app.
Uber does not appear to have responded to the Turkish President’s comments, but did say it wanted to have a future in the country when it made becoming an Uber driver more difficult under rules levied weeks before the speech.
Local authorities in the historic English city of York made it the second city in the country to pull the handbrake on Uber.
City of York Council did not keep the app’s operating licence rolling in December of last year, citing the same data breach that prompted Brighton authorities to clamp the company.
At first Uber responded with an appeal – as it had done in London and the seaside city.
But in March it decided not take up the fight, saying it would just re-apply for a permit at a later date.