Uber has tried hard to change its image in recent years, but has it worked?
Soon-to-be-public ridehailing company Uber hasn’t always had the best relationship with London — its biggest European market — but its regional boss believes the company is now in a “much better place” than it was a year or two ago.
In 2017, Transport for London revoked its license over a “lack of corporate responsibility.” This was reversed after a court hearing, and Uber was eventually awarded a 15-month probationary license, which is due to expire later this year.
“I feel very confident that we’re on the right track,” Jamie Heywood, regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, told attendees at Skift Forum Europe.
Heywood, who joined joined last year from Amazon, said Uber had made progress in terms of safety with driver-hour limits in London, a 24/7 customer service hotline, and speed limits for certain drivers.
Heywood said that another problem was that, for whatever reason, cities weren’t thinking of Uber as a partner. This is one of the reasons why the company has been working hard to try and build bridges and earlier today announced it was integrating public transport into its London app.
“I think one of the attributes of Uber that caused it to run into some of the challenges it did is it didn’t listen enough to the cities and the organizations on which it operated. We didn’t necessarily play our role as a key part for society, and we weren’t necessarily seen by cities as a key partner for their growth,” Heywood said.
Another UK-specific dispute is its ongoing court case over workers’ rights. At the end of last year the Court of Appeal upheld an earlier decision, which basically said it should treat drivers as workers rather than as self-employed. Uber is now taking its case to the Supreme Court.
“We’re confident that the case we’ve made is a valid one. It’s important to know that the decision at the Court of Appeal was not unanimous, which shows that it really is a point of valid debate,” Heywood said.
Uber is looking to raise around $9 billion from its upcoming initial public offering, which would value the company at up to $84 billion. This comes despite the fact it is heavily loss-making and might never make a profit.
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Photo credit: Jamie Heywood, Uber regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, speaking at Skift Forum Europe. The company is preparing to go public. Russell Harper / Skift