Uber CEO apologizes for ‘mistakes’ after London license blow

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Uber’s new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has written an open letter apologizing for “mistakes we’ve made” following the announcement on Friday by London’s transport regulator that it was withdrawing licensing from Uber — having deemed it is not “fit and proper” to operate.

In the letter Khosrowshahi thanks Uber users for “support over the last few days” — likely an indirect reference to the Uber-initiated online petition calling for a reversal of TfL’s decision which has now racked up more than 750,000 votes (though it’s unclear how many of those are from actual users of Uber in London) — and goes on to concede the company has “got things wrong” before saying sorry.

He also writes that Uber “must also change”, and says his intention for the company is to “run our business with humility, integrity and passion”.

In an internal email sent to staff on Friday, which was leaked to Mike Isaac of the New York Times, Khosrowshahi also told Uber’s workforce: “Going forward, 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.”

While the new CEO’s tone is markedly different from Uber co-founder and ousted CEO Travis Kalanick, whose strategy can be summed up as aggressively ignoring rules to aggressively accelerate expansion, Khosrowshahi’s response to Uber’s business crisis in London risks looking rather similar to when Travis was at Uber’s wheel — given that, on the one hand he’s accepting culpability in London, whilst simultaneously reaching for a legal brake and hoping to reverse TfL’s decision, with only a vaguely worded concession that “we do so with the knowledge that we must also change”.

Here’s the letter in full:

We want to thank everyone who uses Uber for your support over the last few days. It’s been amazing to hear your stories of Uber improving lives across the city – from drivers who use our app to earn a living, to riders who rely on us to get home safely after a night out.

While Uber has revolutionised the way people move in cities around the world, it’s equally true that we’ve got things wrong along the way. On behalf of everyone at Uber globally, I apologise for the mistakes we’ve made.

We will appeal the decision on behalf of millions of Londoners, but we do so with the knowledge that we must also change. As Uber’s new CEO it’s my job to help Uber write its next chapter.

We won’t be perfect but we will listen to you; we will look to be long term partners with the cities we serve; and we will run our business with humility, integrity and passion.

Here in London w’ve already started doing more to contribute to the city. Wheelchair accessible vehicles are on the road and our Clean Air Plan will help tackle pollution.

You have my commitment that we will work with London to make things right and keep this great global city moving safely.

Meanwhile, in an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today program this morning, Uber managed to distribute more mixed messages.

Fred Jones, head of cities for the company in the UK and Ireland, claimed it does not understand why London’s transport regulator decided to withdraw its license in London, and said it wants to sit down with TfL “to understand these concerns”. (TfL said on Friday it will not be commenting further on its decision pending any appeal.)

Although he also went on to concede that Uber made “a mistake” in its handling of a customer complaint regarding one of its drivers — a driver who subsequently went on to commit an attack on a different passenger.

“We apologize to everyone involved,” he said on that specific incident.

Pressed on why Uber only notifies TfL when customers report serious incidents with drivers on its platform, and why it does not also notify the police, Jones said: “We’re working with the police to figure out how we can do this in a way that’s helpful to them.”

“This is absolutely an area where we want to go further,” he added.

Concerns about how Uber approaches reporting serious crimes was one of the four areas listed by TfL in its announcement that it would not be renewing Uber’s license, after the Met Police contacted the regulator detailing “significant concern” that Uber only reports less serious allegations and deliberately avoids reporting more serious complaints made by its users to try to avoid damage to its reputation.

“My concern is twofold, firstly it seems [Uber] are deciding what to report (less serious matters / less damaging to reputation over serious offences) and secondly by not reporting to police promptly they are allowing situations to develop that clearly affect the safety and security of the public,” wrote the Met Police’s Neil Billany in the letter to TfL.

“We were surprised by that letter from the Met Police because they haven’t raised any concerns direct to us,” said Jones on that, while also admitting to the aforementioned “mistake” in one instance.

“We just didn’t realize when the passenger wrote in how serious it was,” he added on that.

The company previously fought against a series of proposed changes to private hire vehicle rules in London — including a requirement for operators to have a fixed landline telephone number available for passengers to contact them at all times.

Other problem areas listed by TfL on Friday are: Uber’s approach to how medical certificates are obtained; its approach to how Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are obtained (which relates to carrying out background checks to ensure workers do not have a criminal record); and its approach to explaining the use of Greyball in London (aka an alleged internal software program the company created seeking to evade regulatory oversight).

Also speaking to Radio 4 this morning, London’s mayor Sadiq Khan said he wants the city to be “a place for new technology” — but added that operators “need to play by the rules“.

Uber claims to have some 3.5 million users in London, and 40,000 drivers on its platform in the UK capital.

Featured Image: Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images