Uber CEO apologises for ‘mistakes’ after company hit with London ban
WA Today, 26 September 2017
Uber’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, apologised in an open letter Monday for the company’s “mistakes,” after the transport authority for London said last week that it would not renew the ride-hailing service’s license to operate in the city. “While Uber has revolutionised the way people move in cities around the world, it’s equally true that we’ve got things wrong along the way,” Khosrowshahi wrote. “On behalf of everyone at Uber globally, I apologise for the mistakes we’ve made.”
The statement did not specify what, exactly, Uber was apologising for, but the conciliatory tone represented a stark change for a company that, under its previous chief executive, Travis Kalanick, was better known for its aggressive approach from the get-go.
Uber intends to appeal the decision made Friday by Transport for London, a move that would prevent the company from doing business in its biggest European market, and it will be allowed to continue to operate during the appeals process. The company says it has 40,000 drivers in London and 3.5 million customers who use the service at least once every three months.
The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who had initially accused Uber of responding to the decision with aggressive threats, said he welcomed the apology and supported the idea of talks between the city and the company.
“Obviously I am pleased that he has acknowledged the issues that Uber faces in London,” Khan said in a statement. “Even though there is a legal process in place, I have asked TfL to make themselves available to meet with him,” he added, using the abbreviation for the transit agency.
Khan had said on BBC Radio earlier that Uber was not playing by the rules and had made aggressive threats to take London’s transport authorities to court.
“You can’t have it both ways – on the one hand acting in an aggressive manner and threatening all sorts of things, on the other hand brief to journalists that they want to do a deal with TfL,” he said.
Fred Jones, a senior executive for Uber in Britain, told BBC Radio that Uber was eager to meet with London travel authorities and that the company was “not clear” about the issues the transit agency had raised.
In its decision Friday, the agency cited problems with the company’s approach to background checks and to reporting criminal offenses.
“Providing an innovative service is not an excuse for not following the rules,” Khan said in a statement Friday.
“I have every sympathy with Uber drivers and customers affected by this decision, but their anger really should be directed at Uber,” Khan added. “They have let down their drivers and customers by failing, in the view of TfL, to act as a fit and proper operator.”
The decision was divisive, winning praise from unions and from drivers of London’s iconic black cabs, who view Uber as a threat to their business.
A petition started by Uber, which criticises the move, has received the support of more than 750,000 people. In it, the company accused Transport for London of wanting to “restrict consumer choice” and making a decision that would affect the lives of hardworking drivers.
Uber will face more scrutiny of its working model in Britain on Wednesday, when a court will hear its appeal against a case it lost in October, when a judge ruled that Uber drivers should be classified as employees and should be treated as such. Uber says its drivers prefer to be self-employed.
If upheld, the judgment would drastically change the dynamics of the so-called gig economy in Britain, forcing companies like Uber to provide workers with the payment, protections and benefits to which full employees are entitled, rather than treating them as contractors.