Uber has fought many battles on many fronts for the last 8 years, is often criticized for its business model and not only. Although innovative Uber’s way of managing their services get in conflict with the laws in many countries. The biggest ride-hailing company a won numerous enemies since its execution in 2009. Offering low-cost rides on a shared principle Uber gets attacked regularly by the regulatory bodies of the countries, whose markets it tries to conquer.
In the last week, Uber seems to have lost one more battle, this time in London.
What Has Happened to Uber?
Last week on 22.09.2017 Uber got an unexpected blow from Transport of London by losing its licence to operate in London. TfL should have renewed Uber’s licence, as it is ending this September. However, the regulatory body rejected their application. Why has this happened since Uber has over 40,000 drivers and more than 3,5 million customers?
According to TfL’s statement, the company’s business model is inappropriate, and all companies should follow the rules, including innovative ones. TfL points out the many records of violation over customers, along with other reasons, such as inadequate background checks and checks of medical certificates of the drivers. TfL’s ruling is supported by London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, the black cab drivers industry and GMB and IWGB unions.
Uber’s system is quite flexible. This is what used to make it so tempting for drivers to apply. Any driver with descent English speaking skill, in a good health condition, with excellent knowledge about London’s street networks could become an Uber licenced driver. It is a something like self-regulated service, as the drivers use their own vehicles and count on the customer-driven rating in the app.
So far so good, but Uber gets attacked by both unions and the black cab industry, accused of paying little to drivers and unregulated competition based on their low ride rates. If you remember, they started with luxury cars maintaining pretty much normal market prices until 2012 and the UberX program. This program involved middle-class vehicles in lowering the price for a ride. Today the company has many enemies, including the cited above.
The USA company has 21 days to oppose TfL’s ruling and to file an appeal, which they will surely do. During the appeal Uber still has right to operate in London, but no one knows for how long. It could take months before a final decision is made. Until then you can still use Uber if you’re fan of their services.
Unfortunately, they already suffer from bad publicity and are not getting any new customers. Uber is fighting against this ruling and appealed to its driverd to sign a petition so that the decision can be drawn back. So far more than 30 000 people signed it. However, the chance of success seems insignificant. It might be a good decision to start searching for alternatives.
Why is Uber Chased Away From London?
The regulatory body seems to have a firm opinion this time, as we remember other conflicts between Uber and Transport of London.
The highlighted reasons are the records of bad customer experience. TfL states many complaints are accusing Uber’s drivers of being violent to clients. For Transport of London issue of primary importance is the safety of the client. Whether Uber is more unsafe than regular Underground or coach transportation is questionable. TfL states Uber doesn’t check carefully the background of their drivers for criminal record and their working history- a procedure known as DBS checks. Therefore employees with unclear past might become licensed drivers, as long as they pass the exam.
The problem around DBS checks is more complex. Uber partners with a third-party business that carries out the checks, which was not in conflict with the rules in the past. However, some while ago TfL changed their rules and now consider checks valid only when they are carried out by their own partner – GB Group.
In this tense environment more problems and scandals are added to Uber’s reputation. Black cab drivers and unions have always been against the method of payment Uber uses to deal with their drives. They are stating that the company needs to assure higher payment to fulfill employees’ basic rights.
Since the large business is significant competition not only to black cabs but to other smaller businesses Uber doesn’t have many allies. In their history, Uber services have been banned in many countries, including Denmark, Italy and some states in the USA.
One of Uber’s shame stains is the tool called Greyball which they use to decline orders from suspicious customers. The software collects data about a user’s account, credit card, and social media connections. The company was accused in another big scandal 7 months ago for using the software to undermine legal implementation of several laws. The UK press release states that they are using the tool to collect data about the location of the people working in regulatory agencies and warn drivers.
The company decided not to comment the accusations. But still, this is one of the many black points leading to the current situation.
In the past several years the ride-hailing company fought against TfL and eventually accepted their rules. However now it comes to changing its whole business model. When TfL insisted on implementing English language exam to non-English speaking drivers the company bent over reluctantly.
Uber’s days in London are going to an end. It looks like a breath of fresh air for many of their competitors trying to play with the big. Many private hire companies suffered from Uber’s monopoly for the past several years. This actually turned out good for the customers, because trying to beat the competition ride-hailing businesses started to offer better services at lower prices.
Let see what are your alternatives, as a customer and a person preferring the good and still affordable ride.
Best alternatives to Uber
Mobbo Taxi is relatively new company for minicab and airport transfer services. They cover all areas of the city, including all airports and main railway stations. Mobbo cars can be booked online from their website or over the phone.
All of their prices for transfers are fixed and visible on the website. You can browse different sections and get information about the areas they operate and fares to the airport from a particular borough or area.
Mobbo Taxi use four types of vehicles – saloon budget cars, minibuses and large vehicles for 8 passengers with many bags and heavy luggage. As normal, they will meet at the airport or the station. Of course, you can use the information about your drive you will receive in email or text message.
Mobbo have fair prices for what they provide, especially when talking about long distances.
• You have visibility on fares, so you have quick view about their service even you haven’t used them before. They respond fast to inquiries and bookings.
• You can pay by cash, card or bank transfer if you prefer.
• Mobbo have automated process of booking cancellation in case your flight is not going to arrive. You only need to call if you want to make another reservation.
• The company operates 24/7 and will take your inquiry in every time of the day.
• There is a lot of additional information about the airports, connections and guides about London on their webpage.
• The company invests in technology to track their cars in real time so that they can inform you about any eventual delays.
• You don’t need registration to book your taxi or get a quote.
Unfortunately, the company still doesn’t have an app. Meanwhile, you’ll need to use their website.
Addison Lee was founded more than 40 ago. The company started as a private car hire. Today they offer everything from courier services to private planes. Their car park offers not only standard vehicles but couches as well as luxury E and S class cars. Expanding their reach, Addison Lee also provide courier services.
They operate internationally providing taxi rides all over the UK and globally as well, being present in 83 countries. Addison Lee is a big company; they recently merged other two transport operators to form the Addison Lee Group. Their primary target remains the UK, concentrating on London. Addison Lee handle all London airports and boroughs.
• The company is known for investing millions in modern technologies such as tracking services for real-time updates for their customers and drivers. They are also famous for being business paying attention of reducing emissions and investing in eco-friendly cars.
• They win returning customers by offering them priority prices with a personal account at their app. By creating a personal account clients get up to 20% discount off the airport transfers, making the service with one-third cheaper than traditional black taxis.
• Addison Lee introduced special cars for passengers with bicycles. The vehicle can take up to two people and one bicycle.
• The firm offers free 4G internet in the cars and chargers for your mobile phone.
Every ride provider has disadvantages, no matter how popular or preferred it is. With Addison Lee, you might stumble upon some problems, mainly caused by the bad reading of their terms. Some extra charging may occur if you book a small car, but have too many bags. If you want to pay with credit card, you need an account, and you’ll be charged for the registration. If you’re late for your pickup, you will be charged for the lost time.
Twelve Transfers is another minicab company operating across London’s streets. Smaller than Addison Lee, but still with quite good reviews around the web. Twelve Transfers seem to be direct in their approach to customers, practically offer exactly what is needed with no fancy words.
As the name of the company suggests, they are concentrated on transfers- from airports, ports, and universities. So perhaps if you’re looking for a drive to your home after a travel Twelve can be a good choice.
They also provide tours with a car around London and a private trip outside of the city, making them alternative to standard car renting.
• Twelve saw the gap in airport transfers many are missing, so they offer up to 30 minutes waiting time at the airport. It is a convenient option for travellers, especially foreign ones, who are not familiar with many companies around London.
• Again for guests of the city the day trip option is quite good. They can travel in a warm and tidy car and miss the crowded hop on hop off coaches.
• The firm covers all London areas even the far ones, so you’re sure you have your ride wherever your destination is.
• Twelve Transfers have a good range of different vehicles- standard budget cars, luxury- with complimentary Wi-Fi and pet-friendly cars, as well as big vehicles for travellers with extra luggage.
• They will meet you at the airport, so you’re not going to get lost in the crowd.
While their prices are low, and the rides arrive on time, it ‘s hard to operate in their website, as a lot of information is missing. They do not accept card payment, due to security reasons, but this might be inconvenient for many passengers. Still, you can pay with a card online. Twelve doesn’t have an app still, so you’ll need to log into their website or call on the phone for your inquiry.
The Keen Group
The Keen Group is London based company for minicab services around the city. It covers all airports and already has a million of customers using their transport. They operate in the middle range of prices with both standard and executive minicabs.
Except for the transfers and city trips they include same day and next day courier services in and outside of the city and offer coach hire. Depending on what you need you can choose budget car or luxury equipped vehicle.
The Keen Group has 6 main offices to meet clients and give an answer to your questions. Besides they are always on the phone to get your inquiry and have an application suitable for both Android and IOS. They use tracking technology to send you the nearest car and thus reduce waiting time, emissions and increase the workflow.
• The Keen Group offer minicabs of special fare from SW11 zone, covering Battersea and Clapham Junction. So if you’re resident in this area, you can order your cab to the airport at a special price.
• Their cars are air-conditioned, even the standard cabs and gather 1 piece of large luggage per passenger. Saloon cars, as cheaper option, allow only 2 pieces.
• One of their special features is the transport for children with special needs to their schools. The cars are altered to fit children’s needs in order to provide a comfortable and safe drive for everyone.
They are missing proper FAQ’s section, which is important for you as a customer if you haven’t used their services before. Of course you can call on the phone and ask your questions, but still online information is important for an online based company. Their prices are a bit higher than other local minicab providers and your car might arrive later than expected in rush hours.
Swift Cars is a minicab firm operating mainly in North, Central and West London. They offer standard taxi transfers and ride from point to point. Amongst their vehicles, you can find saloon cars, regular minicabs and MPVs. For those seeking airport transfer they operate between all of London’s airport and railway stations as well.
Swift cars have a mobile app to download for your convenience. You get a discount when you’re using the application and save time on phone calls and waiting on the line when there are many inquiries.
They offer three types of booking, for account members, cash and card payments. Payments are carried out through their booking portal, not directly upon the ride.
The quotes for prices are calculated automatically, so you know in advance what you will pay for your trip.
• Their app is compatible with all devices, all you need is a smartphone and slightly good connection.
• They often introduce discount coupons for all of their minicab rides with a greater discount on the most popular destinations. You’ll have to stay in touch with Swift Car’s social channels to get the updates.
• Swift Cars provide a practical service called “Light Removals” for people changing living places. You can carry your luggage and small furniture with the minicab, while you’re going to your new home.
• Using the app you can see real-time information about your booking, spot it on the map and receive a text message when it reaches your address.
Again with Swift Cars is lacking information about how you can order a taxi, find it, or get information about lost objects in the car. They still haven’t updated their FAQ’s section and the user experience suffers. You need to be with your finger on the incoming call button, so you don’t miss their confirmation. There is a big chance your driver to be reassigned if you miss answering.
If you’re a first-time customer you’ll be surprised to see there is no information about airport transfers section on their website. This doesn’t make them bad transfer provider, but still, the absence of official information is something unacceptable these days.
There aren’t many reviews, but this is normal as they are slightly new to the market. You can’t rely on others’ opinion, so you should try a new service and decide whether you like it or not.