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London the latest city to ban Uber – and what it means for Australia

London has become the latest city to ban Uber. The City of London issued a statement saying the ride-sharing service had a number of public safety and security issues that needed to be rectified before it would be allowed to operate again.

These issues include the company’s “approach to reporting serious criminal offences”, “approach to how medical certificates are obtained” and its use of Greyball software, which blocks authorities in their attempts to regulate the app and the company.

While Uber has fallen foul of the law previously, the announcement came as a surprise. In the five years since its launch, Uber has become a “staple” in London and has emerged as a serious competitor to the traditional taxi.

Despite its exponential growth around the world – including in Australia – Uber has been criticised for failing to report sexual assaults committed by its drivers and underpaying its workers.

Uber has been banned in all but two German cities due to concerns regarding worker remuneration and licensing, while the premium service Uber Black is currently being challenged in the European Court of Justice for violating competition law.

As it currently stands Uber is legal in most Australian states – although the regulatory approach differs significantly across borders. Some states such as Victoria have advocated for legalisation only in limited circumstances, while the NSW, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australian government have all paid out multi-million dollar packages to the taxi industry as compensation for Uber entering the market.

Despite these payouts, there have been complaints from the taxi industry about Uber – particularly in the way it uses legal loopholes to avoid full taxi licensing. There is no word yet on whether any Australian cities or states are looking to follow London’s example.

For those planning to use an Uber in the English capital in the coming weeks, the service won’t vanish overnight. The company’s current licence expires on the 30th of September, although it will be allowed to continue trading while the legal process is ongoing.

Despite widespread support for the move, there was also plenty of criticism of the decision online, with customers reluctant to go back to the traditional taxi or to use public transport.

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