The tech industry’s over-processed supply of irony might not be enough to service all the ramifications of Uber being stripped of its London license by the city’s transport regulator.
Uber advocates were immediately scrambling to bust out the reactionary clichés — painting the regulator as “anti-innovation” and claiming London is now ‘closed for digital business’. (A point that might have more substance if they were talking about Brexit.)
Guys. Spare us. Please.
NB: A regulator’s job is literally to uphold a set of standards on behalf of the public, not to bow down before your shiny app.
The old ‘They’ve caved to the taxi cartels and/or the unions!’ refrain was also wheeled out and waxed off. Harder to spot: Any mention of how much Uber spends on lobbying lawmakers to influence regulatory decisions in its commercial favor.
Nor how Uber mobilizes its app infrastructure and users to create thousands-strong lobbying armies to apply pressure to city authorities at key moments of regulatory threat.
So — quelle surprise! — there’s already a petition with thousands of signatures against TfL’s decision. A petition set up and promoted by, er, Uber, of course…
At the same time, some genuinely outraged London Uber users, who have become accustomed over the past five+ years to a VC-subsidized regime of unsustainably cheap cab rides, have taken to social media to cry that it’s simply not fair!
And to wonder aloud how they’ll be able to go anywhere without Uber. This in a city that has one of the most extensive and accessible public transport networks in the world — not to mention a large number of private hire vehicle companies other than Uber, some of which can also be summed by an app (such tech! much innovation! wow).
How will we get home safety now, fretted others — apparently untroubled by the fact that London’s Met Police had informed the regulator that Uber was failing to report sex attacks by drivers on its platform. TfL cited Uber’s “approach to reporting serious criminal offenses” as a contributing factor to its decision to withdraw licensing.
The deepest irony of all is that Uber can continue to operate in London while it appeals the regulator’s decision. Which will, at very least, take months. It could take years.
Being told you’re not “fit and proper” to operate a service yet allowed to keep operating your service? Tell me again exactly how London is ‘closed for digital business’?