For political, economic, and PR reasons, Uber has always been a tough sell to government regulators in London, UK. There have been back-and-forth battles, regulations, pushback, and ongoing arguments about consumer demand and rideshare safety in this major international city. Recently, though, Uber took another blow to its business in the UK when London’s transit authority refused to renew the rideshare company’s operating license.

The rationale given for the refusal is, apparently, “concerns over imposter drivers,” according to multiple media reports of the decision. Authorities say they must tighten restrictions on ride-sharing services, due to increased concern over “passenger safety and security.”

Uber fired back at the decision immediately and publicly, calling the move “extraordinary and wrong,” and vowing to file an appeal very soon. In the meantime, the company may continue operating until the appeal process has run its course, and that issue has been decided. It’s unknown at this time what might happen, as London transit regulators have cited “several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk…” in the comments associated with the refused renewal.

In a statement, director of licensing and regulation Helen Chapman said, “While we recognize Uber has made improvements, it is unacceptable that Uber has allowed passengers to get into minicabs with drivers who are potentially unlicensed and uninsured… We cannot be confident that similar issues won’t happen again…”

Uber’s response came from CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, “We understand we’re held to a high bar, as we should be, but this TFL decision is just wrong… Over the last two years, we have fundamentally changed how we operate in London…”

The refusal could signal a serious financial setback for Uber, as the company continues to try to turn a profit in the European market. However, the PR consequences could be an additional stumbling block to Uber as it tries to increase market share. When riders don’t feel safe, they will choose another option, where one is available. That means Uber’s competition has an opening to seize on this decision and promote their brand as “safer” or “more reliable” than Uber.

Whether or not those claims are actually true, the issue is primarily one of public perception. What does the consumer rideshare market believe is true about Uber? Is the company safe or not? If there is doubt and a viable alternative, it’s likely that at least some potential Uber customers will choose that alternative option, regardless of the eventual appeal of the ruling.

That’s the PR issue facing Uber in the UK. The company needs to assure riders that its service is both safe and reliable, regardless of what happens with the license renewal, because the consequences of that aspect of the situation extend far beyond the London city limits.

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Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 175 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, was named to PR Week's "40 under Forty" list, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations" is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.