Uber is still operating in London, but their license to continue to do so expires at the end of the month and it’s been announced that it will not be renewed.
To be clear Uber can appeal, and the regulatory decision spells out concerns that Uber will no doubt offer to placate, but the process wasn’t to judiciously negotiate with Uber it was to dramatically drop the hammer.
Need I mention as Tyler Cowen does that London’s Uber ban refutes the argument for Brexit “that European Union regulation was horribly restrictive, and British business would blossom under a reign of newfound freedom”?
And no matter what you think of Uber and its myriad problems this sends a signal that regulation of disruptive businesses will be swift and harsh, and London will protect entrenched interests. What will that do for the UK’s attempt to attract capital and tech businesses going forward?
Uber is a transfer of billions of dollars from investors to drivers and consumers. Moreover withdrawing Uber from the market hurts poorer Londoners most as Cowen notes,
Over time, let’s say Uber would continue to encroach upon the cab business. It then becomes harder to hail cabs, as arguably is already the case. Uber fares might be lower, but the average quality of the ride would be lower too. That’s a better deal for poorer people, and an inferior deal for the well-off. Wealthy people are just fine with paying more and getting the better service.
..Keep in mind the London Tube is not 24/7, and cabs are often more reluctant to pick up customers from dicier neighborhoods.
Uber has its share of challenges, which is why the company’s CEO was ousted. But this is a story about the UK’s regulatory processes, its institutions, and the signals those send to tech startups and investors around the world about what Britain will be like after its impulses are no longer held somewhat in check by the EU.