Uber has a problem. Sure, it’s already the world’s largest ride-share service, well positioned to remain the Goliath of an industry with bright prospects for the future. But the company has attained that position by hook and by crook, and its reputation for dirty dealing has begun hobbling its plans not only to grow, but to maintain its share of the market.
How bad is its reputation? Bad enough that its new chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi—hired to replace Uber’s ousted founder after widespread complaints of an out-of-control company workplace—felt compelled to address the issue head on in an email to employees obtained by the New York Times.
“The truth is that there is a high cost to a bad reputation … It’s critical that we act with integrity in everything we do, and learn how to be a better partner to every city we operate in.”
The city Khosrowshahi was alluding to was London, which last week announced it won’t renew Uber’s license to operate within city limits. Uber will appeal the ban, which would affect 40,000 drivers and the 3.5 million riders who use the service at least once every three months.
Whether or not Uber succeeds in proving itself “fit and proper” to the licensing authority, Transport for London, the very fact that the company finds its ability to do business in one of the world’s preeminent cities jeopardized by its history of misdeeds is a wake-up call for a company that by all accounts put growth and profits before rules.
The Transport for London ban was to take effect September 30, but Uber will be available in London at least until the company’s appeal works its way through the court. If you’re headed for London and plan to use Uber for local transport, keep an eye on the local news for updates.
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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.