Uber: The most innovative business plan of the decade or London’s biggest fail?

It’s no secret, travel in London can be a nightmare. With a hefty congestion charge and millions of commuters flocking in and out every day along with an amazing nightlife, a trustworthy, quick and affordable cab company is essential for many. Along came Uber. Since forming in 2009 Uber has become a household name, especially for London residents and tourists.

According to Ofcom, 27.9% of Uber customers are aged 18-24, the tech-savvy millennials who are more likely to book a taxi based on price and ease. The easy-to-use app makes finding a taxi any time, day or night, much simpler than trying to get through to a minicab firm. The prices are so cheap nobody else can compete, you can track your driver’s journey and every payment is done via account so you don’t need to worry about finding a cash point before you book one. So far this all sounds great, so why did TfL announce it was not going to be renewing Uber’s London operating license on the 22nd September?

Let’s start with the customers; there were 48 reported attacks on customers linked to Uber drivers between February 2016 – 2017. That’s nearly one a week. With nearly 40,000 regular drivers and 3.5 million customers, there was always going to be the occasional complaint, but Uber has the responsibility to put its customers first and yet, still failed to report some of these attacks to the police within a reasonable time frame. In one case, Uber had a complaint from a female customer about an alleged sexual threat from one of its drivers. Uber failed to report this to the police and the driver went on to commit several more serious offences, eventually getting a 12 year prison sentence for his crimes. As a company who provides a chauffeur service option with our luxury cars, we know how important it is to have professional, reliable and safe drivers.

Then there’s the revelation of Greyball – a fake interface shown to law enforcement officials Uber did not want to serve. Unbelievably, based on location, credit card details and social media profiles, the app could detect a police officer who may be looking to get picked up in a sting operation. Greyball would show cars in the area but would never allow a pick-up go through, letting its drivers to continue operating in areas which were unlawful.

What about the drivers? Although it is undeniable that, if Uber loses its appeal, nearly 40,000 drivers will be out of work, with huge car finance debts and no income, drivers are currently working up to 60 hour weeks just to earn enough money to pay the bills. With Uber taking a whopping 25% commission from every journey and drivers unable to regulate the pricing themselves, some are claiming that, after business-related expenses, they make as little as £5 an hour.

Uber uses a strict rating system, based on the time drivers take to complete their journey; if they take a different route than the app has suggested, they are penalised. In no way are these drivers being their ‘own boss’ as the company keeps reiterating. At the same time, keeping them as self-employed, Uber avoids paying sick and holiday pay, reaping the benefits of the people who have no choice but to work 7 day weeks to pay their rent.

The car giant operates all over the world with a multi-billion annual revenue. However, it’s well aware its prices are too cheap for other firms to compete, or even for them to maintain themselves. The company was happy to undercharge, ripping off their own drivers in the process, in an attempt to force other minicab firms out of business. Once successful, taxi prices would be hiked up, leaving Londoners and tourists no choice but to pay the increased charges.

New CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, had been with the company just one month when the decision was made and, although Uber’s future can only be described as uncertain, Khosrowshahi himself wasn’t CEO when any of these incriminating actions took place. He’s already apologised for the actions of the company, and has up to a year for the appeal process to go through. What a way to start your new job!