With the British prime minister calling London’s refusal to extend Uber’s license “disproportionate,” and Uber’s chief executive heading to London to talk to regulators, a compromise is in the offing.
But it shouldn’t give Uber a false sense of security: Isolated regulatory demands aren’t its biggest problem.
Viewed in isolation, each of Uber’s setbacks this year triggered a disproportionate response. Neither a toxic work culture, nor unequal gender representation, nor any of the specific legal or business issues that dragged down the ride-hailing company was lethal. Nor was any of these problems likely beyond former CEO Travis Kalanick’s ability to fix or sweep under the rug, as he’d done for years.
That all of the crises broke out at once was the result of an emotional backlash against the company’s arrogant push for global dominance. Something akin to this backlash is also beginning to catch up with Facebook and Google. They’ve done nothing in particular terribly wrong, it’s just the general perception of large, uncaring, overly powerful corporations running on unchecked ambition.
TfL, the London traffic authority, has a list of specific problems Uber has failed to solve: the way it reports criminal incidents and does medical and background checks on its drivers.
It can all be pretty easily fixed, especially with Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi’s personal involvement. Prime Minister Theresa May wants to move on because the Uber case contradicts her party’s claims that Brexit Britain will be open for business. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has nothing to gain politically from banning Uber but everything from being seen to make it comply with rules. Khosrowshahi has nothing to gain by not cooperating — that’s why he’s coming to London.
But even if his talks succeed — as everyone wants them to — new trouble will almost immediately crop up for Uber in the UK and everywhere else it operates. It’s not…