Wednesday , April 8 2020
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Don’t let TfL drive Uber out of the market

Summary:
It has been two years since TfL first rejected Uber’s license renewal and they still seem to be reaching the wrong decision. They have continually failed to value Uber’s popularity. Uber has 3.5 million regular users in London alone and yet TfL wants to deny Londoners the service. Backlash against Uber is not exclusive to the UK.Today marks the anniversary of Madrid’s taxi strike. Much like in the UK, Spain’s black cab equivalent has been hostile to its biggest competitor Uber. The strike has left a black mark on the reputation of Madrid’s taxis. The standoff lasted sixteen days last year and saw taxi drivers blocking roads. But this anti-competition protest wasn’t enough to persuade people to use Madrid’s taxis. It lost them what little reputation they had left as not only did they

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It has been two years since TfL first rejected Uber’s license renewal and they still seem to be reaching the wrong decision. They have continually failed to value Uber’s popularity. Uber has 3.5 million regular users in London alone and yet TfL wants to deny Londoners the service. Backlash against Uber is not exclusive to the UK.

Today marks the anniversary of Madrid’s taxi strike. Much like in the UK, Spain’s black cab equivalent has been hostile to its biggest competitor Uber. The strike has left a black mark on the reputation of Madrid’s taxis. The standoff lasted sixteen days last year and saw taxi drivers blocking roads. But this anti-competition protest wasn’t enough to persuade people to use Madrid’s taxis. It lost them what little reputation they had left as not only did they provide an inferior service, they also actively intimidate and disrupt alternatives. 

Madrid’s taxis’ refusal to embrace competition saw them suffer. Ultimately, they were forced to accept innovation and many of them have now paired with ride hailing apps such as Pidetaxi and Tele Taxi. London’s black cabs should learn from their European counterparts that resisting competition will do them no good. In the long run, it simply isn’t viable to deny consumers what they want and consumers want Uber.

Despite criticism over its safety, Uber remains popular among many adults, including parents wanting to ensure their children get home safely (with the added benefit of not having to leave their home to do so). Part of this success stems from the ability to track rides. Parents are able to see their kids in real time. They also know the license plate of the car beforehand. Uber also enables parents to pay for their kids and know they can get home at any time, no matter what the cost and that their kids won’t spend the money on other things. While Uber may not be entirely safe, it is certainly on a par with black cabs. Uber drivers must pass a DBS check and get a TfL private hire license. 

There have been concerns over Uber’s safety as unauthorised drivers were able to upload their photos to the accounts of authorised drivers on some 14,000 journeys, however, this is not just cause to ban the app entirely. The overwhelming majority of journeys are conducted by authorised drivers with authorised profiles. Uber can introduce safety measures such as requiring photos to be taken at Uber’s office and then uploaded by Uber itself or random spot checks. Safety concerns are not, however, limited to private hire vehicles. Those who criticise Uber in favour of black cabs seem quick to forget cases such as the black cab rapist, John Worboys. 

Another reason for Uber’s success is that it’s easy to use the app. Uber is hassle free as they can be booked in advance, the driver knows the exact destination and removes the need for passengers to speak to the drivers. The last factor makes it desirable with tourists as it removes the issue of a language barrier. 

Uber has honed its service thanks to competition, such as Cabify. If Uber didn’t provide a service that people wanted, it would have failed a long time ago. Rather than changing to meet the demands of the customer, black cabs have attempted to deny the customer of a service that will satisfy them.

Uber doesn’t just make customers happy but also its employees. Uber enables 45,000 licenced drivers in London to work flexible hours that suit them. According to a 2018 report from the University of Oxford they earn above the London living wage. Banning Uber will harm these drivers and disproportionately affect minorities: 80% of black cab drivers are white compared to 26% of private hire drivers. In the States, drivers with Gold, Platinum or Diamond status on Uber’s reward system for drivers (i.e. frequent drivers) are rewarded with full tuition coverage at Arizona State University Online for them or a family member. Uber is planning on introducing this UK version of this scheme with the Open University.

TfL has denied Uber the renewal of its license over concerns over safety but left Londoners with an alternative that offers a service many customers don’t want. Any system is fallible and susceptible to be misused. Replacing Uber with black cabs leaves Londoners no more protected. The solution to problems with the market for taxis is not eradicating competition. It is introducing more of it.

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