Rampant Uber drop in London the latest evidence of fierce local opposition

Written by By Hannah Thomas

London is struggling to cope with Uber, which saw its car service in the capital in decline, according to the company’s new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

While the firm has heralded its mission in the capital to end inequity and end fare discrimination against women, its decline in the capital has been swift.

In July, the number of Uber trips dropped by 31%, compared to a year ago. That number swelled back to 51% in August, but was down to 45% in September, the firm said.

In response to increasing pressure on its drivers, the company recently cut prices by 8%, in the wake of similar efforts to halve prices in Paris, Barcelona and San Francisco. Uber was in early talks to offer workers a one-off payment of $200 (£152) in the United States, it announced last month.

Uber said it believed there should be more taxi licensees in the city and that its fares would increase before the slump in demand went away.

“Some members of the city council had the audacity to suggest in April that they would not approve any more licences or certificates for ride-hailing companies,” wrote Khosrowshahi in an open letter to the city’s mayor John Tory.

“San Francisco (…) is effectively stopping the growth of ride-hailing, smothering thousands of small businesses, disrupting individual livelihoods and hurting ordinary riders in our city.”

Uber’s move in Toronto has received lukewarm reviews. The municipal council recently suspended new driver permits after the city’s taxi and limousine board found Uber was deliberately stalling applications in an effort to drive up prices. The city council had already suspended driver licenses in August 2016, which hurt Uber’s business in the area.

For a UK city of about 3.5 million people, the suspension has been a serious blow to Uber’s business plan.

In a statement following the decision to freeze the numbers of new permits, the firm said existing companies did not need a licence to operate.

“Those who are on a valid and properly renewable licence are able to use the Uber app, while those who don’t need a licence at all,” wrote Khosrowshahi.

“Those who are seeking a permit will have to wait, just like any other application for a taxi or black cab.”

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