Open letter to Mr Fred Jones
Uber Head of Cities
September 24 2017
Dear Mr Jones
As you are the Uber rep who attends the Brighton & Hove Taxi Trade Forum where we have both met I was interested in your interview on Sky News on Friday September 22 2017 which can be viewed at: https://tinyurl.com/sky-jones
I would like to go through this interview:
Sky News: “Mr Jones what do you think of the ruling today? Obviously disappointment. Do you think any of the criticisms are warranted?
You stated: “Well look... first of all over 3.5 million Londoners who use the app and over 40,00 licensed drivers who rely on the service to make a living will be absolutely astounded at the decision today. I think it’s clear by trying to ban Uber in London the Mayor and TfL have caved to a small minority of individuals and groups that want to restrict competition and choice in the capital.”
AP: Do you think that you should have actually apologised to your customers and drivers and accepted the findings by TfL instead of trying to shift the blame?
Here is a reminder of what the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan stated:
“I have every sympathy with Uber drivers and customers affected by this decision but their anger really should be directed at Uber. They have let down their drivers and customers by failing, in the view of TfL, to act as a fit and proper operator.
You stated: “You know I think the impact of this decision you will not only prevent 3.5 million Londoners getting an affordable ride around their city... It potentially.. where it stands.. it could put 40,000 licensed drivers out of work”
AP: This is a very interesting statement because although Uber has gone to great lengths to deny that it employs drivers.. even to the extent that it is appealing a court ruling that defined that they indeed were... can you please elaborate on how these drivers will suddenly have no potential to carry on as TfL licensed private hire drivers?
They still retain both their TfL driver and vehicle licences regardless of whether Uber exists in London or not....and are free to carry on driving for one of the 2445 (as of September 2017) Private Hire Operators in the City of London.
Additionally... all the TfL minicabs that predominantly work outside of London under Uber in such areas as Brighton & Hove could in fact become legitimate Brighton & Hove licensed drivers after undertaking and accepting the high standards that the council expects via its licensing system which included a ‘Knowledge Test’ and the fitting of CCTV.
As far as competition is concerned these drivers will still be available to the public albeit via different Operators/Companies and consequently continue to make a living.
Our experience in Brighton & Hove has been that Uber fully expects all private hire drivers to work for as many different Operators/Companies as they wish... and has even complained that this does not happen in Brighton & Hove.
On this basis one would presume that TfL drivers that work on the Uber platform do not accept jobs exclusively from Uber but also from a multitude of various Operators/Companies as encouraged by Uber...
Therefore taking all of this into account I would consider that your statement about 40,000 TfL drivers being put out of work is actually very misleading.
You stated: “Safety has been integral to our service since we launched in London over five and a half years ago. In fact all our drivers are licensed by Transport for London and go through the same enhanced background enhanced checks as London Black Cab drivers. Furthermore we have also pioneered through our technology new safety features that don’t exist elsewhere in the industry. For example every job is tracked by GPS so you always no where you are.”
AP: Firstly what action did you take to ensure that none (if any) of the 13,000 TfL licensed minicab drivers that were recently written to by TfL informing them that they had 28 days to submit a new Enhanced DBS because their current was considered invalid.... for whatever reason.. were not/ are not working on the Uber platform for the protection and safety of Uber customers?
Secondly your statement that the safety features that Uber uses does not exist elsewhere in the industry is again very misleading. I can assure you that this technology is not new and is certainly used by the trade as there are other systems that provide driver and vehicle id to the customer along with GPS tracking.
Do you still stand by this statement?
Additionally at a Brighton & Hove Taxi Trade meeting you publicly stated that you considered CCTV to be unnecessary. This was recorded in the Minutes of the meeting.
You also stated that private hire vehicle identification on such vehicles was not needed and Uber has actually encouraged Brighton & Hove Uber ph vehicles to remove all identification much to the dismay of the local trade that has worked tirelessly for the protection of the general public. We even stated to you that this state of affairs is taking the trade back to 70’s before private hire was legitimised by the Local Government Miscellaneous Act 1976.
Sky News: “They’re saying that their worries include the approach to reporting serious criminal offences. Do you understand that particular worry?
You stated: “So we’ve always had a requirement to report serious incidents to TfL and have done so and we’ve past every audit that TfL have conducted of our operation since launching. Furthermore we have a dedicated team that works with the likes of the Met Police to help them with their inquiries and to investigate any incidents.
Even earlier this week myself and colleagues were meeting with senior Met officials to work how we can go even further and deliver more to protect the public.
This interview took place on the day that TfL announced its decision not to licence Uber in London which was Friday September 22 2017.”
AP: On August 13 2017 The Guardian reported the following along with other media outlets:
“Uber has been accused by police of allowing a driver who sexually assaulted a passenger to strike again by not reporting the attack, along with other serious crimes.
In a strongly worded letter, Insp Neil Billany of the Metropolitan police’s taxi and private hire team suggested the company was putting concerns for its reputation over public safety”
AP: In the context of the time frame of that article from August 13 2017 where Insp Neil Billany accused Uber of not reporting a serious sexual attack...do you think that your statement on Friday September 22 2017 about your meeting with the Met Police was only instigated on the clear basis that the Uber system of reporting serious crimes to the police had lacked previous integrity which is exactly attributed to one of the reasons why TfL has refused to re-licence Uber?
Would you agree that effectively your meeting with the police was in fact far too late as the horse had already bolted?
Sky News: “So why do you think that with all of the measures that you’ve taken have simply not satisfied the concerns for Transport for London and the Mayor of London?
You stated: “Well I think what’s clear by this decision is the Mayor and Transport for London have caved under extreme pressure from a small number of individuals and groups who want to restrict choice for consumers and competition within London. “
AP: Firstly it is very interesting that you clearly avoided addressing the actual question put to you with regards to the reasons as to why TfL are refusing to re-license Uber
To remind you this is the statement that TfL issued stating and main reasons:
“TfL has concluded that Uber London Limited is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence.
TfL 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. These include:
• Its approach to reporting serious criminal offences.
• Its approach to how medical certificates are obtained.
• Its approach to how Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are obtained.
• Its approach to explaining the use of Greyball in London - software that could be used to block regulatory bodies from gaining full access to the app and prevent officials from undertaking regulatory or law enforcement duties”
AP: Would you care to directly address this now?
Secondly where you state: “......who want to restrict choice for consumers and competition within London. “
Are you familiar with the term ‘Predatory Pricing’ as often quoted on the internet in the context of Uber related stories?
You continued with: “The impact of this decision will impact over 40,000 licensed drivers out of work with no means to support themselves.. their families... their loved ones. Which is why as a priority to support those drivers we are going to challenge the decision immediately and try and operate beyond the 30th September”
AP: We have already touched on the statement from you that apparently 40,000 TfL minicab drivers will be out of work.
However.. as you have mentioned this again then we can re-addressed here.
You stated: “The impact of this decision will impact over 40,000 licensed drivers out of work with no means to support themselves.. their families...”
Given that it is very clear that these drivers will still retain their TfL vehicle and driver licences can you please go into absolutely every detail as to why they cannot continue working (under self employment status) with other Operators/Companies?
Do you think that your statement was effectively simply trying to pull at the heartstrings of the public to gain sympathy by proving misleading information?
Or... do you stand by your statement that these licensed drivers will not have any methods to support themselves on the basis that Uber can no longer be trusted to by a TfL Licensed Operator?
It is internationally well known that Uber is working on self-driving cars and has expressed many times that the goal is to produce self-driving taxis.
Therefore would you agree that it is Uber’s ultimate ambition to get rid of all the Uber drivers anyway?
Perhaps in reality there are crocodile tears because Uber needs all those 40,000 drivers to pay for the investment into self-driving taxis that will end up making those drivers superfluous
Sky News: “Looking at terms of employment record what about the Independent Workers of great Britain in the case that they brought. There’s been much reported about the conditions that Uber drivers have to undergo and they complain themselves that they’re not happy with the way they are treated.”
You stated: “Well look... first of all it’s important to understand that private hire drivers have been self-employed for decades long before Uber launched so this isn’t an Uber thing. What the data on independent polls show is that over 90% or drivers like working with Uber. They love the flexibility of being their own boss and being able to adapt their schedule to around their other commitments both in their family and community. Last year on average drivers on the app made more than £15 per hour after we have taken our service fee”
AP: So would you agree that as these drivers are... as you stated “Self-employed”...then they are free to go and work on other platforms and will certainly have opportunities to work with other Operators/Companies
You stated that the average driver on the app “...made more than £15 an hour after we have taken our service fee”
Are you aware of the term of ‘made’ in respect of ‘gross’ and ‘net’?
It is very clear that a driver would not have ‘made’ £15 an hour after all the expenses such as car finance.. fuel and insurance and that the £15 figure is in fact based on gross takings and not net income which would significantly less than the claimed £15 an hour.
Sky News: “You’ve launched an appeal..in the meantime will there be anything the company will do to change its practices in the way that you operate?”
You stated: “Well look we are always looking at way to improve our service both to regulators... to riders and the drivers that use our app. What we are urging people to do is voice their outrage at this decision by the Mayor and TfL. They need to save your Uber so we are encouraging people to go to Change.org to sign the petition and write to the Mayor directly to express their disbelief at their decision and urge him to change his mind”
AP: On reflection do you think you should have instead taken the opportunity to take a humble approach instead of attacking the Regulators like a petulant child who are in place to protect the public... and instead apologise to all of your Uber customers and drivers and admit that even after operating for some five years in London as a disruptive technology company you failed to come up to the standards expected of you and indeed other private hire Operators in the city.
Do you think that you should have taken a more realistic stance like Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and less ‘Kalanic-like’ where he stated:
“While the impulse may be to say that this is unfair, one of the lessons I've learned over time is that change comes from self-reflection. So it's worth examining how we got here. The truth is that there is a high cost to a bad reputation. Irrespective of whether we did everything that is being said about us in London today (and to be clear, I don't think we did), it really matters what people think of us, especially in a global business like ours, where actions in one part of the world can have serious consequences in another.
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. That doesn't mean abandoning our principles - we will vigorously appeal TfL's decision - but rather building trust through out actions and our behaviours. In doing so, we will show”
Lastly I would like to offer my own view on where Uber is now today:
What has actually happened is that Uber has always been regarded as ‘Disruptive Technology’ where as now Uber itself and been “Disrupted” for failing to adhere to the standards expected of a responsible company that has forgotten about the safety of its customers and the stability of its drivers,
I would welcome your comments on my observations either by a reply to email@example.com or perhaps at the next Brighton & Hove Taxi Trade Forum on October 5 2017 where you normally attend as the UBL representative
Secretary GMB Brighton & Hove Taxi Section