London's taxi drivers and Pittsburgh's lawmakers show Uber's opposition is a many-headed beast
Uber just can't catch a break.
The company was issued a cease-and-desist order in Pittsburgh earlier this week in the city's latest attempt to block the service. Uber has also been the target of sting operations in Pittsburgh in which undercover police officers would order rides and then issue tickets to the service's drivers for ferrying passengers without the proper license. (Uber will continue to operate in the city despite the cease-and-desist order and has condemned the city's actions as anti-disruptive.)
Then it seemed to triumph in London, where the regulator in charge of taxi and livery services said that its application didn't break laws against calculating fares without a taxi license. But even that victory was short-lived. A group of taxi drivers have brought a criminal case against the company despite the regulator's decision, with one representative telling Bloomberg that it has "no confidence in [the regulator's] legal team" and that the group is "not fit for purpose."
The conflicts demonstrate the varied problems Uber has whenever it tries to enter a market. In Pittsburgh's case, the city itself has decided that the service is operating illegally, making its drivers wary of picking up undercover police officers. It considers the service a risk to public safety -- maybe because of its lax background checks and the infamous killing of a young girl -- and has decided to stop it from operating in the city.
The backlash in London is different. There, the company has support from city regulators -- it's the local industry with which Uber is competing that the company has to worry about. The service has driven those competitors to gridlock major cities around Europe, inspired them to press criminal charges after a regulator took its side, and failed to woo them with a service dedicated specifically to giving those existing drivers a chance to benefit from Uber's advance.
Uber isn't just fighting to convince regulators that its service is safe, compliant with relevant laws (or at least those laws it deems worth following), and a benefit to everyone in the city; it's also fighting to prevent the local industries threatened by its continued expansion from doing what London's taxi drivers have done and pressing criminal charges against the company. If ever there were a reason to build a public relations army (which is exactly what Uber has done, according to a report from the Daily Beast) this varied and worldwide assault would be it.