Notorious for ignoring regulators, Uber now finds the tables turned.

By David Z. Morris
September 24, 2017
September 24, 2017

Uber is preparing an effort to reverse London regulators’ decision to take away its operating license. While some of its tactics will sound familiar, the company, now under pressure, is also showing its softer side.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Uber is hoping to arrange a meeting as early as Monday with Transport for London, the body overseeing the city’s public transit and taxis. It seems Uber hasn’t had much luck getting meetings with London leaders recently.

“We’d like to know what we can do,” said Uber’s London general manager, Tom Elvidge, in an email to the Journal. “But that requires a dialogue we sadly haven’t been able to have recently.” Uber, according to the Journal, doesn’t even know why its license was revoked, or what it can do to earn it back.

Even new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has taken to Twitter to beg for a dialogue with city leaders.

To Uber’s many critics, that likely has a delicious ring of schadenfreude. Under CEO and founder Travis Kalanick, Uber was notorious for ignoring or working to circumvent regulators at every level.

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But Khosrowshahi got the CEO nod in part because he isn’t Kalanick, and repairing the company’s reputation is his broadest mandate. Now his softer approach will be put to the test – though the company is also diving back into the Kalanick-era playbook, including by marshalling public pressure on regulators.

That approach, though, has already failed spectacularly once, when residents of Austin, Texas rejected a proposition to reverse regulations the company found onerous. Uber left the city, and returned to Austin after more than a year only because state legislators overturned Austin’s rules.

The stakes for Uber in London are immense. According to the Journal, London amounts for about 5% of Uber’s userbase. That’s worth holding on to – but concessions that increase Uber’s costs could also trigger similar demands from other locales. That could threaten the company’s chances of at least getting closer to profitability, as it targets an IPO within 18 to 36 months.

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