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Half a million sign petition supporting Uber in London

By Reuters - Sep 23,2017 - Last updated at Sep 23,2017

A woman poses holding a smartphone showing the App for ride-sharing cab service Uber in London on Friday (AFP photo)

SAN FRANCISCO/LONDON — Half a million people have signed an online petition in under 24 hours backing Uber's bid to stay on roads of London, showing the company is turning to its tried-and-tested tactic of asking customers for help when it locks horns with regulators.

London's transport authorities stunned the powerful start-up on Friday when they deemed Uber unfit to run a taxi service for safety reasons and stripped it of its licence from next week, although it can continue to operate while it appeals. 

The regulator cited Uber's failure to report serious criminal offices, conduct sufficient background checks on drivers and other safety issues, threatening the US firm's presence in one of the world's wealthiest cities. 

Uber immediately e-mailed users in London and urged them to sign a petition that said the city authorities had "caved in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice". 

By (12:00GMT) on Saturday, more than 515,000 people had signed in support of Uber. 

It counted 3.5 million active users in London in the past three months. Even if many tourists are probably included in the total, the figure represents a potential political force of commuters who face long journeys between their home and offices and who use Uber as a cheaper alternative to other taxi firms. 

Turning to users for help is one of the first steps in Uber's playbook. In Jakarta, Budapest, Toronto and Portland, it asked riders to sign petitions and built online tools to contact lawmakers to show their support.

Regulators have at least partly relented in Portland, Toronto and Jakarta, but Budapest remains a work in progress.

Uber now faces a showdown with London's Mayor Sadiq Khan, who this month said he would not let his teenage daughters use cabs like Uber on their own over fears for their safety. 

Khan, a leading figure in the opposition Labour Party, said on Friday: "All private-hire operators in London need to play by the rules. The safety and security of Londoners must come first."

As mayor, Khan is chairman of Transport for London, the regulator which stripped Uber of its licence.

 

London's decision is the first major challenge for new Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over from co-founder and ex-CEO Travis Kalanick. He was forced out after internal and external investigations into sexual harassment complaints, the thwarting of government inquiries and potential bribery. 

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