Uber (2)

Business leaders have shown their support for Uber in its ongoing battle against regulations by writing a letter to London’s mayor warning of the risk to the £36 billion digital economy.

The letter, published by the Financial Times, calls upon London mayor Sadiq Khan to rethink the new Transport for London (TfL) rules that weaken his post-referendum London is Open Campaign and add restrictions to mobile app Uber.

The open letter is signed by many business leaders, including the director general at the Institute of Directors, Simon Walkers, Sharing Economy UK’s director Ellie Gummer, TechUK boss Julian David and Ali Clabburn, the chief executive of LiftShare.

Described as a “backwards step”, the new regulations, which are coming into force in October, require private minicab companies to notify the transport regulator regarding any changes to their operating model in advance.

TfL are also enforcing all minicab operators to run a call-center in their London operating unit, meaning Uber’s new €4 million customer service facility in Limerick would no longer serve a purpose.

Uber provides its ride-sharing trips in 400 cities and made 62 millions rides last month alone.

“London has a thriving digital economy, contributing £36bn to our city and employing more than 320,000 people. After the EU referendum we support mayor Sadiq Khan’s London is Open campaign, but if that worthy aim is to be achieved, it must also remain open to and supportive of innovation,” read the letter.

“That’s why it’s worrying to see Transport for London introduce new rules that require private car hire companies to notify them of any changes to their operating model in advance. Rather than encouraging companies to experiment, this could tie them in red tape every time they want to change their app, launch a new product, or update their pricing.

“These regulations are a backwards step, set a troubling precedent across government, and risk slowing down future innovations that ultimately benefit Londoners across the city.”

Garrett Emmerson, chief operating officer for surface transport at TfL, told the Financial Times that the “vast majority of the industry is fully supportive of these changes”.

Mr Emmerson added: “The mayor’s office is on board. We fully expect there to be an improvement from these new regulations.

“The customer needs to be able to speak to somebody in a place where booking is taken. Records need to be kept in London, and we should be able to inspect those records. Black cabs are a different type of operation — there is no operator, because they are hailed on the street.”

Last year, Uber won a high court case against TfL, who claimed, along with London’s black-cab and minicab drivers, that the mobile app was being used as a taximeter, a privilege only black-cab drivers receive in return for training to learn about the capital’s streets.