Uber CEO to meet London transport chief after license loss

Europe



Uber’s new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will go to London to meet with the city’s transport commissioner following the regulator’s decision to withdraw licensing.

A Transport for London (TfL) spokeswoman confirmed that the meeting will take place next Tuesday.

“Following an approach from Uber and at the mayor’s request London’s transport commissioner will meet with Uber’s global CEO in London next Tuesday,” she told us.

The spokeswoman declined to provide any details of specific talking points for the meeting.

An Uber spokesman also declined to provide steerage on what arguments and concessions Khosrowshahi might be bringing to the meeting.

But a company spokesman told Reuters: “Our new CEO is looking forward to meeting with the commissioner next week. As he said on Monday, we want to work with London to make things right.”

Khosrowshahi has already apologized for “mistakes we’ve made” in an open letter to Londoners following TfL’s decision.

He also tweeted urging the regulator to “please work with us to make things right” — apparently signaling a change in tone for a company which, under founder Travis Kalanick, gained a reputation for being aggressive and abrasive in its approach to regulators and regulation.

Kalanick’s legacy of ignoring civic concerns and stepping on the gas to drive business expansion — while apparently flipping the bird at everything else — appears to have finally caught up with Uber in a major market.

Last week Transport for London announced it would not be renewing the ride-hailing giant’s license to operate in a city where Uber claims to have some 3.5 million users and 40,000 drivers.

Its five year license had been renewed for a further four months in May, as TfL continued to look into criticisms directed at Uber, including concerns about public safety. With no renewal granted, that four month extension lapses at the end of this month. Though Uber will continue to operate in London while it appeals the decision — a process that could take many months.

Last Friday TfL listed four areas where it said Uber’s “approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility” — including how it reports serious criminal offenses. London’s Met Police had highlighted this as a problem in a complaint letter to TfL, accusing Uber of failing to report allegations of serious crimes including sex attacks.

The regulator also said it was not satisfied with Uber’s explanation for its use of its ‘Greyball‘ software in London — software which the company apparently developed to try to block regulatory bodies from gaining full access to its app and to prevent officials from undertaking regulatory or law enforcement duties.

In its statement following TfL’s decision to withdraw licensing, Uber appeared to confirm it has used Greyball in London — though it claimed it has not used the software for the regulation-dodging purposes TfL is worried about. “As we have already told TfL, an independent review has found that ‘greyball’ has never been used or considered in the UK for the purposes cited by TfL,” Uber said last week.

So the next obvious question there is what was Uber using Greyball for in London? Which will presumably be one of the concerns that London’s transport commissioner Mike Brown will be discussing with Khosrowshahi.

The new Uber leader has a heaped plate of corporate crises to deal with — from seeking to reform an internal culture of sexism and bullying, to privacy and security failings so massive Uber agreed to undertake two decades of oversight by a US regulator, to an ongoing legal battle with Alphabet over allegations of IP theft to name just a few — so it’s notable that he feels the London license loss merits him taking a fair chunk of time out from all that firefighting to personally fly to Europe for a sit down with regulators.

In itself it’s a very large sign that he wants Uber to have a new public face at least. But regulators will want to be sure there are also changes of direction behind the scenes — and not just some high profile virtue signaling out front.

Featured Image: Drew Angerer/Getty Images



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