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Losing London licence not the only setback, it’s been a rocky year for Uber

Transport for London, said it “considers that Uber’s approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications.”

world Updated: Sep 23, 2017 12:56 IST
The logo of Uber is seen on an iPad, during a news conference to announce Uber resumes ride-hailing service, in Taipei, Taiwan.(Reuters)

Uber will lose its licence to operate in London because it may be endangering public safety and security, according to a UK regulator, in a blow to a company facing questions over its corporate culture.

The company, which has been beset by a litany of scandals over its management style — from accusations of sexism to the illegal use of software to trick regulators — was told it was not “fit and proper” to keep operating in London, where it has 3.5 million passengers and 40,000 drivers.

The regulator, Transport for London, said it “considers that Uber’s approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications.”

Uber has been facing legal and administrative challenges in Europe and other parts of the world since it began operations in 2012. Here is a list of Uber’s mounting troubles across the world this year:

On January 28, after President Donald Trump releases his first executive order on immigration, New York taxi drivers protest by refusing to pick up passengers at Kennedy Airport for an hour. Some protesters say Uber tries to capitalise on the protest by picking up passengers anyway, prompting a Twitter protest urging people to delete Uber’s app from their smartphones.

On February 1, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was forced to step down from President Donald Trump’s economic advisory council that he had joined in December, under pressure from employees who wondered why he was still willing to advise the President.

On February 19, former employee Susan Fowler, in an explosive revelation on her blog, claimed that she and other female staffers had been subjected to sexual harassment at Uber; and when she reported the situation to HR and upper management, all she got was indifference. She was reportedly told that nothing could be done about the Manager who she accused because he “was a high performer”.

Kalanick tweeted his response calling the behaviour described in her blog post “abhorrent & against everything we believe in” and promised that “anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired.”

On February 21, it was announced that Uber had hired former US Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct a review of the sexual harassment claims. Arianna Huffington, who joined Uber’s board last year, Liane Hornsey, Uber’s chief human resources officer, and Angela Padilla, the company’s associate general counsel, were also to help conduct the review.

Many criticised this as well, wondering at the efficacy of an enquiry conducted by people from within the company.

On February 23, Google-owned Waymo sued Uber for stealing its self-driving car technology. The case accuses Anthony Levandowski, a former top manager for Google’s self-driving car project, of stealing pivotal technology that is now propelling Uber’s effort to assemble a fleet of autonomous vehicles for its ride-hailing service.

On February 24, venture capitalists Mitch and Freada Kapor, early investors in Uber, publicly criticised the firm for failing to end a toxic culture of harassment. “Uber has had countless opportunities to do the right thing ,” they wrote. “We feel we have hit a dead end.”

On February 28, a senior executive at Uber, Amit Singhal, was asked to leave the company for failing to disclose a sexual harassment allegation stemming from his tenure at Alphabet Inc’s Google

On March 1, the company’s CEO Travis Kalanick got into an argument with his Uber driver. In a dashcam video published by Bloomberg News, Kalanick was seen arguing with his Uber driver over the company’s treatment of drivers. After a conversation about policies at Uber, Kalanick ends the conversation by saying: “Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!”.

On March 3, The New York Times reveals that Uber used a phony version of its app to thwart authorities in cities where it was operating illegally. Uber’s so-called Greyball software identified regulators who were posing as riders and blocked access to them. The US Justice Department is investigating Uber’s use of the Greyball software.

In March, Uber said it planned to withdraw from Denmark after the country passed a new taxi law that required ride-hailing services to install fare meters and meet other requirements.

He later apologised in an email sent to all employees of the company.

In April, a Rome court banned unlicensed ride-hailing services such as Uber, but the ban was short-lived after the company appealed to a higher court. Uber does not operate in Milan after a 2015 ruling against UberPOP that the smartphone app represented “unfair competition” to taxis.

In May, a non-binding legal opinion by a legal adviser to Europe’s top court found Uber to be a transportation service, not just an online app, exposing it to further local regulation across the region.

On June 6, Uber fires 20 people after a law firm, Perkins Coie, investigates complaints of harassment, bullying and retaliation. That investigation, which was separate from Holder’s, checked into 215 complaints; 57 are still under investigation.

On June 13, Kalanick tells Uber employees that he’s taking a leave for an unspecified period, but will be available for “the most strategic decisions.” Uber’s board releases Holder’s recommendations, which include removing some of Kalanick’s responsibilities and replacing Uber’s chairman and founder, Garrett Camp, with an independent chairman. Holder also recommends many cultural and policy changes, from establishing an effective complaint process to recruiting more diverse applicants to prohibiting alcohol and drug use during core work hours.

On June 20, Uber embarks on “180 days of change,” seeking to persuade riders and investors that it is a company with a conscience and a heart. The first move was allowing riders the ability to give drivers tips through the Uber app, something that Kalanick had resisted. Details of the rest of the plan were not made public.

On June 21, CEO Travis Kalanick resigns under pressure from investors and the board. He will stay on as a board member.

With inputs from Reuters and Associated Press

First Published: Sep 23, 2017 12:55 IST