Uber CEO Khosrowshahi to visit UK to rescue London licence

2017-10-02 13:36 - Adam Satariano
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Dara Khosrowshahi

New Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi (Drew Angerer, AFP)

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London - Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is flying into London next week for a diplomatic mission with city regulators in hopes of negotiating a deal that prevents the ride-hailing service from being banned in its largest European market.

With Uber’s new CEO grappling with a host of challenges, the visit on October 3 shows how damaging the ban could be to Uber’s business. The British capital is one of the company’s most successful markets, with about 40 000 drivers and 3.5 million people using the app at least once every 90 days, according to Uber.

The ban, announced last week, has already acquired an overtly political edge. London Mayor Sadiq Khan, a Labour politician, supports the regulator’s decision, while UK Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Theresa May said in a BBC interview on Thursday that the city’s plan threatened jobs and is "disproportionate."

Khosrowshahi will sit down with Mike Brown, the commissioner for Transportation for London, the regulator that last week revoked Uber’s license. "We want to work with London to make things right," Uber said in a statement. The company said he’s not scheduled to meet other officials during the visit.

Khosrowshahi was named CEO in August and has stuck a conciliatory tone compared to Uber’s more brash approach to government relations under co-founder Travis Kalanick.

The San Francisco-based company is rushing to respond to the UK government’s conclusion that it doesn’t conduct sufficient background checks on drivers or properly report crimes, and actively avoids regulatory oversight. Uber disputes the findings and is appealing the decision, during which time the service can remain in operation.

“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," a TfL spokesperson said in a statement.

The potential ban has pitted the convenience of Uber’s service among customers against the pressure of traditional black cab drivers whose business has been harmed and lobbied for stiffer regulations.

In addition to the license battle, Uber is also facing a potentially damaging decision from an employment tribunal over its treatment of workers. The company this week appealed a decision made earlier this year that would require it to classify drivers as workers entitled to minimum wage and holiday pay.

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