Tuesday 26 November 2019 4:22 am

DEBATE: Is Uber’s loss of its London licence evidence that we need more gig economy regulation?

John McCallion is chief executive officer of GroundScope.
Elizabeth Kent
Elizabeth Kent is chief operating officer of Bishopsgate Financial.

Is Uber’s loss of its London licence evidence that we need more gig economy regulation?

John McCallion, chief executive officer of GroundScope, says YES.

Transport for London has quite rightly decided not to grant Uber a licence to operate in London — just as many other cities around the world have done.

Every city needs to ensure that the taxi firms operating there are “fit and proper”, yet Uber’s unscrupulous surge pricing, poor customer service, and the way it treat its drivers is anything but.

Now we learn that Uber has allowed unauthorised drivers to upload their photos to verified accounts — putting passenger safety and security at risk. Something has to change.

But let’s be honest here, Uber’s behaviour is symptomatic of a wider trend in the “gig economy”, where firms, flush with VC cash, are riding roughshod over the rules and regulations that allow businesses to operate freely and compete fairly.

It’s time for the government to stop letting companies like Uber take us for a ride, and instead compel them to abide by the same rules and to pay their fair share of tax.

Elizabeth Kent, chief operating officer of Bishopsgate Financial, says NO.

While the logic behind Transport for London’s decision to revoke Uber’s licence is sound (the company’s systems allowed unverified drivers to upload their photos to other drivers’ accounts), any additional moves to clamp down on the gig economy more generally should be met with extreme caution.

Without doubt there should be rules in place to ensure that low-paid workers are treated fairly and have access to full employment benefits. However, if you scratch under the surface you’ll find a diverse ecosystem of gig economy professionals who thrive on the flexibility and independence of self-employment.

The UK economy has prospered in recent years largely due to this flexibility, with specialist workers benefitting from the ability to work when they want, for who they want, and for as long as they want. This is as true in the financial services sector as it is for taxi drivers. But with Brexit and new regulations relating to IR35 on the horizon, this flexibility is already under threat.

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater and regulate the gig economy out of existence.

Main image credit: Getty

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