back to article Why Uber isn't the poster child for capitalism you wanted

Within minutes of Uber losing its licence to operate in London, Uber became a totemic icon of innovation and free enterprise market capitalism that was being crushed by vested interests in cahoots with bureaucrats. Boo to the corrupt, killjoy socialists! Hurrah for innovation! Sign the petition! But this is a simplistic, …

  1. Fihart

    Uberbnb

    Similar story with airbnb -- apparently just disrupting the hotel business but actually exacerbating the housing crisis as landlords switch from Assured Shorthold lets of a year or two to weekend lets -- for about the same as a week's regular rent.

    Add to that the undermining of communities and noise nuisance to neighbours of early morning arrivals and late nights out and airbnb is proving a menace in London and, doubtless, in other tourist destinations. Tenant groups and local councils are looking to new legislation.

    1. Professor Clifton Shallot

      Re: Uberbnb

      Berlin is certainly unhappy about AirBNB and similar property let setups.

      Guardian reports on Berlin's attempts to regulate

      1. Fihart

        Re: Uberbnb

        Barcelona too. Demos against.

    2. Downside

      Re: Uberbnb

      Locally, ten years ago, the transition of an inner city residential rental / owner area to student tenancy's was greeted with similar dismay - late night partying disturbing the people who lived there - and triggered a rapid exodus of tenants, and owners moved out, renting their houses to students. Sounds pretty similar to those airbnb gripes to me. The real problem is a lack of housing in the first place.

      Places have always had areas where people could rent, get gentrified and have to move out. That's the difference between owning and renting.

      Full disclosure: I've rented a few places off airbnb. It has pretty solid payment protection for both parties and a world wide brand.

      1. boltar Silver badge

        Re: Uberbnb

        "The real problem is a lack of housing in the first place."

        The real problem isn't lack of housing, its too many people. You can't import 2 million extra people into the UK in 20 years and expect housing stock to keep up especially in a city like London where there physically is no space for more housing. Well you can, if you're a deluded Guardian reading middle class liberal halfwit who only cares about quickly made skinny vanilla mocha in your local organic artisan coffee shop who can pay a pittance to their workers due to oversupply of cheap labour, and don't give a damn about the knock on effect this has of reduced wages, zero hour contracts and massive rent rises on the people who do the dirty work.

        Ditto Uber - Tarquin and Jemima might be online SJWs by day, virtue signalling and emoting on Twitter and Facebook with the best of them. But by night all they care about is getting home quickly and screw however that is achieved. An unpleasent rapacious silicon valley bro-fest that doesn't report criminal offenses by its drivers and treats its staff like shit? No problemlo, they'll use it, wouldn't want to slum it with the proles on the tube or night bus would we?

    3. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      FAIL

      Uber is a criminal organization

      Uber is an organized crime organization that meets all of the necessary criteria to be prosecuted by the DOJ under RICO. And under RICO, the money behind Uber can be prosecuted as well. If the DOJ would do that, VC's would be a little more reluctant about funding companies whose business models are based around criminal behavior.

      1. blw37

        Re: Uber is a criminal organization

        I refuse to use Uber because its entire business model seems to be "We don't need to obey the law unless we want to." In New Zealand there is no limit on the number of taxis on the road, only a requirement that drivers are approved by the police and have a stricter drivers' licence. Uber insist that they don't need these checks. They also say that they don't need to pay drivers at minimum wage, and that they can charge customers at a different rate than what the drivers are told about. There are many other problems with their legal compliance, and these are just the tip of the iceberg

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Fihart

        Re: Uberbnb @jemmings

        "2 types of AirBnB.

        1 - people with a spare room, who need a lodger.

        2 - capitalists who buy 20 flats and let out each room at low cost unfair to hotels."

        A very good analysis. Your example 1 is how airbnb was meant to operate and why Government eased restriction on number of let nights.

        Your example 2 is how airbnb is often working. Worse, many landlords are breaching leasehold covenants designed to protect neighbours and are exceeding the number of let night limits.

        Probably few care about the effect on hotels, but the drying up of rental properties is serious.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Endgame: Self Driving Uber Cars

      Uber's end game is self driving taxis.

      Since by the figures listed in the article, ~50% of the cost is the driver's earnings, it is obvious where the "efficiency" will come from. Everything up to then is a brand establishing run-up.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Uber and London

    I think Uber's position can be seen in how it's played out over the last few days

    Friday

    TFL: "Uber can't have a licence to operate until they sort themselves out"

    Uber: "OMG, you're so unfair. I'm going to get legal on your ass."

    Weekend

    Uber users: "OMG, TFL are so unfair"

    Tech supporters "OMG, TFL are so anti-innovation

    Monday

    Uber "We've made mistakes. And we want to work with TFL"

    TFL: "Sounds better"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Uber and London

      You missed off the bit where the totally impartial BBC is being very Pro Uber for some strange reason.

      1. Tinslave_the_Barelegged Silver badge

        Re: Uber and London

        Yes, I saw that astonishing puff piece for Uber in the BBC web site. No doubt the result of the costs of lobbying/PR mentioned in the article, but really concerning to see such a blatantly skewed article on the Beeb.

        1. The Boojum

          Re: Uber and London

          Maybe the Beeb sees Uber as a way of cutting its massive taxi bill whilst making the same number of journeys?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          'astonishing puff piece for Uber on the BBC'

          The free exposure for not just Uber, but also Facebook, Google, Twitter et al, is hard to understand... Especially as these US giants are slowly killing old media or 'the MSM', which the beeb is part of.

        3. Degenerate Scumbag

          Re: Uber and London

          The Beeb stopped being an impartial news source decades ago, if it ever was one.

      2. big_D Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Uber and London

        BBC - all those researchers wondering how they will get home next week, if Uber loses its license...

        Mines the one with a season ticket in the pocket.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Uber and London

        Is that the truth or did you hear it on the BBC strikes again.

    2. FuzzyWuzzys Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Uber and London

      You missed a line at the end...

      Millennial whingers: <silence>

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Uber and London

      > Uber "We've made mistakes. And we want to work with TFL"

      > TFL: "Sounds better"

      Indeed. and by drawing a line in the sand with Uber, TfL has set the bar for everyone else too.

      The next few months are going to be interesting. There are a number of private hire firms across London with worse records than Uber and if TfL doesn't go after those next, Uber lawyering up might be the least of their troubles.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Socialism makes bad monopolies possible, whether that's black cabs or Uber.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      I think you're confusing socialism (a left-wing political ideology) with neoliberalism (a right-wing economic ideology, despite its left-wing sounding name).

      Neoliberalism (as practised by our conservative government) gives us deregulation, lack of public funding, and 'austerity'.

      It is good for those who already have money, as they can make more profit if there is less protection for workers and consumers (such as a decent living wage, sick pay, maternity pay, protected working hours, health and safety, background checks on workers, corporate responsibility for customer protection, etc.)

      It is bad for everyone else, and is why we have people working and in poverty, on zero-hours contracts or low-paid long-hours jobs. It is also why we have exorbitant property prices, unaffordable rents, lack of social housing, and tragedies like Grenfell. It is why we have a stagnating economy, as more of the capital flows from poor to rich, and why we have a crumbling transport infrastructure run for profit by mostly foreign-owned investors.

      1. Arctic fox
        Headmaster

        @Loyal Commenter "It is bad for everyone else..........."

        Not surprising given that Uber is an example of predatory bandit capitalism at its very worst. They are no example of freedom, they do not enter a market to disrupt it, they enter it to destroy it and impose their own interests on the remains.

        1. Justin Case

          Re: @Loyal Commenter "It is bad for everyone else..........."

          >>Uber is an example of predatory bandit capitalism at its very worst. They are no example of freedom, they do not enter a market to disrupt it, they enter it to destroy it and impose their own interests on the remains.

          What you said. For one shining naive moment back when t'internet was taking off I truly thought it was going to put consumers directly (ish) in contact with producers. Now it's increasingly a market place dominated by big money and thuggish middlemen.

          1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Unhappy

            "a market place dominated by big money and thuggish middlemen."

            That would be the "Labour arbitrage" the article talks about.

            Welcome to the future.

          2. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Re: @Loyal Commenter "It is bad for everyone else..........."

            Now it's increasingly a market place dominated by big money and thuggish middlemen.

            So just like pretty much everything else, then? The only people who stand the best chance of making a lot of money are those who already have a lot of money. The Saudis, to take just one example, buy up London property and leave it to sit empty, and they invest in predatory ventures like Uber. Our government then rewards them by burying reports which implicate them in the spread of extremism.

            Who says you can't buy love?

      2. oiseau
        Thumb Up

        " ... confusing socialism (a left-wing political ideology) with neoliberalism (a right-wing economic ideology, despite its left-wing sounding name)."

        Well said.

        Though I gather from the tone in his post that 'anon' won't understand any of it.

        Cheers.

      3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Interestingly, I seem to have garnered a fair number of downvotes for my (albeit brief and simplified) explanation of the difference between socialism and neoliberalism, but no comments as to why these people think I am wrong, or refutation of the points I have made. Are the right-wing sock-puppets out in force today?

        Any of those downvoters care to elaborate? Nope, didn't think so...

        1. Lysenko Silver badge

          re: Interestingly, I seem to have garnered a fair number of downvotes

          You used a swear word - "liberal". Half the colonials will see a red mist descend because they think it means something to do with "socialism" (quite the reverse, as you noted) while half the locals will react similarly because they know what it means and as socialists they despise it.

          You're being downvoted (I suspect) by the sort of knee jerk animus that would make a Biologist reluctant to discuss Paedogamy in certain pubs.

        2. boltar Silver badge

          "Any of those downvoters care to elaborate? Nope, didn't think so..."

          I gave you an upvote - however you're wrong on the reason for soaring rents. Its a simple supply and demand scenario. New Labour and following them the Tories let literally millions of extra people into the country. No housing market can keep up with that and unless you want to see rent controls - which brings its own set of problems - then short of those millions all clearing off again nothing can be done. This is an entirely deliberately politicaly engineered problem.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            "New Labour and following them the Tories let literally millions of extra people into the country"

            In a simple summary: "Bullshit". To expand it a little "Utter bullshit"

            Even if governments had let _zero_ people into the country over the last 40 years there would still be a housing crisis for the very simple reason that the number of people per household has reduced from an average of 4-5 in the 1960s to around 2 now. It's actually worse than it seems if you look at modes, because there are more 1-2 person households than all higher numbers combined.

            The effect has been a doubling (at least) of housing requirement without even changing the population and the UK simply hasn't doubled its housing stock in that period.

            Couple that with a movement of around 20% of the UK population from North to South over the last 40 years and you have a perfect storm.

            Foreign immigrants (and in particular eastern europeans) tend to live in higher numbers per household so they're far less of an influence on demand than you seem to think. The targetting of them is all about pointing at someone who looks different (smoke and mirrors) and hoping you won't pay attention to the man behind the curtain pulling the levers.

            Even back in the 1980s before the great sell-off started in ernest, single bedroom council housing intended for retirees was being snapped up by young couples (mostly GenXers) faster than it could be built, because the demographics were already changing rapidly at that point. The knock-on effect was that of retirees sitting in 3-4 bedroom council housing who couldn't be moved because of the double whammy of there being nowhere to move them to and extreme hostility from their children (baby boomers), who were fully expecting to inherit those flats when the parents died and making life hell for parents who openly considered moving.

            1. boltar Silver badge

              "In a simple summary: "Bullshit". To expand it a little "Utter bullshit""

              Unfortunately the standard response to facts in certain quarters.

              "Even if governments had let _zero_ people into the country over the last 40 years there would still be a housing crisis"

              No, there wouldn't. Because while the housing supply hasn't kept up with demand there has been enough built to supply what would have been the UK population if we hadn't had mass immigration. Next...

              "Foreign immigrants (and in particular eastern europeans) tend to live in higher numbers per household so they're far less of an influence on demand than you seem to think"

              As someone who lives in London and has had a number of foreign renters next door and nearby I'm afraid thats BS. All tenanted properies have legal limits on how many people can live there and the (legit) landlords of east europeans don't tend to cram in any more than they would with locals.

              "The knock-on effect was that of retirees sitting in 3-4 bedroom council "

              There have always been retirees living in large council houses and kids of council tenants who wanted the property. This is nothing new so don't pretend its part of the problem. It isn't. The problem is mass immigration and whilst it obviously suits your political agenda to say otherwise it doesn't change the bare facts and luckily last year the british people saw through the mendacious BS of people like you.

        3. Neil Stansbury

          I'm happy to....

          Because socialism isn't just a deluded naive left-wing political ideology concerning the state ownership of good & services any more, it's a much broader dangerous mindset pervading every aspect of our lives.

          Labour and the Tories are just two sides of the same coin, because they are all "Socialist" at heart.

          I use the word "Socialist" in the sense of "not-free-to-chose", and that "they" know what is best for "us". "Us" of course being a ubiquitous amorphous mass where individuals and their personal choices take second place to what "they" decide is the "greater good". Of course the "greater good" depends on who's votes they're after today, tomorrow or next year.

          I'm quite certain my fellow citizens who's houses are being forcibly purchased & knocked down for HS2 et al don't feel part of either their or anyone else's "greater good".

          Neoliberalism is nothing more than a Socialist sop to persuade people that you aren't so naive and conceited to think that you can actually plan something as complex as human societies or their interactions in a supposed free-market.

          Of course what we eventually realise is that there is no free-market, just a market of enforced choices dictated by those in power deciding on the current "greater good".

          Capitalism doesn't precluded monopolies or "state" sponsored evils - only genuinely free markets participated in by genuinely free individuals can stop that.

          As long as our masters of the universe think they have a right/obligation/whatever-excuse to interfere with everyone else's free choice - of which an especially good example is oh I don't know...

          Say like deciding who can or cannot offer their service of driving someone somewhere in their car in exchange for fair and equitable compensation, then distortions like these will always occur.

      4. Not also known as SC Silver badge
        Pint

        @Loyal Commentator

        "Neoliberalism (as practised by our conservative government) gives us deregulation, lack of public funding, and 'austerity'."

        Thank you for finally giving a definition of neoliberalism I can finally understand. Usually the word is just thrown about as an insult without any attempt to actually clarify what it means.

        1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)
          Headmaster

          The N word

          You've defined liberalism. "Neoliberalism" can mean anything you want to mean. My friend the former Reg columnist who wrote a very big book on it has used it to include state expansion too.

          "Neoliberalism" serves the same purpose as "New World Order" does for conspiracy theorists of the right. Fortunately, since only academics and other Dave Spart types ever use the N word, we can safely ignore it.

          1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            Re: The N word

            Damn right, I've defined liberalism. The only actual distinguishing feature between liberalism, and neoliberalism, is the 'neo' part, which as anyone with a smattering of knowledge of the Greek language knows, means 'new'.

            As wikipedia says:

            Neoliberalism or neo-liberalism refers primarily to the 20th-century resurgence of 19th-century ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism

            In other words, neoliberalism is the resurgence of the failed 19th century idea of liberalism, that gave us all the wonderful standards of living seen in the 19th century, with all those lovely tenements and workhouses.

            It's the resurgence in the latter part of the 20th century of ideas that had already been dis-proven a hundred years earlier, but for which that failure had gone out of living memory. Much like the resurgence of the far right in modern politics, some 70 years after it last reared its ugly head as a main player on the world's stage.

            "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: The N word

              "The only actual distinguishing feature between liberalism, and neoliberalism, is the 'neo' part, which as anyone with a smattering of knowledge of the Greek language knows, means 'new'."

              So are you saying the only difference between Labour and Tony Blairs New Labour was the word New?

              1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

                Re: The N word

                So are you saying the only difference between Labour and Tony Blairs [sic] New Labour was the word New?

                Obviously not, but that's a nice straw man you've got there.

                My point is that neoliberalism is essentially liberalism by another name, and that the name itself defines it as a new version of the same thing.

                New Labour, on the other hand, was conservatism wrapped in a thin veneer of socialism, with a deceptive name which was used to lead people into thinking that it was something it wasn't.

                It's not like this is a new trick in politics. See also: national socialism, or any country calling itself a "Democratic People's Republic".

          2. Lysenko Silver badge

            Re: The N word

            Liberalism is Adam Smith. Neoliberalism is Friedrich von Hayek disinterring the corpse of the "invisible hand" 200 years later. The meaning is perfectly clear in English, it just gets confused in American because the closest thing they have to liberals are anarcho-capitalists ("Libertarians" in American) due to the unholy[sic] alliance of liberal ("Conservative" in American) economics and statist, illiberal ("Conservative" again, in American) social policies.

            A true liberal supports your inalienable right to have an abortion on demand, accompanied by your same sex wife (private sector sperm bank) so long as you can pay a private healthcare company to carry out the procedure. If you can't afford that then you're welcome to have a go with a coat hanger, but if you bleed to death then that's on you. Feel free to make your final moments more comfortable with some private sector heroin.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "Usually the word is just thrown about as an insult without any attempt to actually clarify what it means."

          Usually by people who don't actually know what it means.

      5. DRue2514

        I think it is a little more complex than that.

        We have exorbitant property prices because of planning constraints and Grenfel,l we don't know the full story, but the council and building regs seem at part to blame, not necessarily neolibralism. As for transport - the airline industry that is highly competitive has seen much lower fares than the days of flag carrier airlines. But if you mean trains then that just seems like a Govn't run outsourcing project. They aren't great now but were they better in the days of British Rail? Not in my experience.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Property Prices

          "We have exorbitant property prices because of planning constraints"

          We have exorbitant property prices because -

          - for the last two decades, all of the big construction companies have been furiously building new blocks of 'luxury apartments', which are now requently sold to overseas investors because ordinary people in the UK don't want and in any case cannot afford these. It is not so much a case of a housing shortage, as a shortage of the right KIND of housing.

          - UK.plc sees stamp duty as a nice little earner which must be protected at all costs, has refused to regulate the housing market, and largely backed away from any serious attempt to oblige builders to contruct more 'affordable' housing.

          - The UK has also for the last two decades promoted the idea of property as an investment vehicle, which wealthy city folk have gleefully piled mindblowing amounts of money into building up property portfolios. Of course the rents they must charge to cover their many mortgages and build up capital to buy yet more properties pushes the "market rent" up sky high

          - Most of the UK's major pension schemes are now propped up by "equity" investment funds, to the point where the UK govt cannot risk doing anything to devalue property

          - etc etc.

          In short the country is in a huge mess thanks to naked greed which goes right to the top of government.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Property Prices

            "- The UK has also for the last two decades promoted the idea of property as an investment vehicle"

            Not just the UK.

            In a increasing number of countries, what has been passed off as "economic growth" has actually been inflation of house prices (which doesn't produce anything, and therefore doesn't contribute to the economy) and other invisibles - effectively a bloody great ponzi scam where people think they're rich until they try and cash in.

            When someone in their 60s can sell their house and make several times more money from that one sale than their gross income over their working life, there's something amiss.

            As with shares, the notional value is worth nothing if you can't sell it - and it's worth noting that actual housing sales outside the top 1% are still effectively stagnant despite the high prices.

        2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          @DRue2514

          We have exorbitant property prices because of planning constraints

          It's a little more complex than that. There are a number of issues that combine to form the problems with the UK housing market. Here are a few of them:

          - Use of property as an investment, rather than somewhere to live

          - 'Right to buy', which itself isn't a bad thing, but couple with not replacing the social housing stock that was sold, led to a squeeze on the availability of affordable housing.

          - Rules that were introduced (in the '90s IIRC) that prevented councils from borrowing to build new housing stock, despite that fact that they would have almost certainly made a profit from it.

          - Planning constraints on 'greenbelt' land preventing housing from being built where it would be useful, justified by some misrepresentation of how much of our country is urbanised (93% of the country is actually rural and owned by a vanishingly small number of very rich people, for example over 3% of the UK's land is owned by the Crown Estate)

          - Most of the housing that is being built is not social housing, or even truly 'affordable' housing (the definition of 'affordable' is often made as a percentage to the market price, which is anything but), it is 'luxury' housing - expensive flats that are often sold to rich foreign investors rather than to normal people to live in.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: @DRue2514

            " 'Right to buy', which itself isn't a bad thing, "

            It is when the property is sold at a 90% discount in order to score political points(*) with councils _forced_ to sell property and _prohibited_ from using the income from sales to build new housing stock(**)

            (*) Labour explored right to buy back in the 1950s. The conservatives dusted off the idea but set knock-down prices on the sales (far below replacement costs) as a cheap way of simultaneously buying voters and nobbling labour-dominated councils.

            (**) The restrictions imposed on councils preventing reinvestment in new housing made it utterly clear that the government of the time intended to kill the social housing market - which they have admirably succeeded at. More than a few politicians felt this was the "christian thing to do" as it would force the poor to better themselves (aka "you can only improve through suffering" - and we all know how that worked out in many institutions).

      6. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Neoliberal Economists must Die!

        An actual book title, but probably not what you were looking for.

    2. MyffyW Silver badge

      Sorry @AC but the idea that socialism alone makes bad monopolies possible is bullshit. Standard Oil seemed to emerge without too much difficulty in the US. Likewise Microsoft's capturing 90-odd percent of the desktop market, or Google cornering the search market.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        "but the idea that socialism alone makes bad monopolies possible is bullshit"

        Not socialism alone, but socialism usually like those big, bad monopolies which are state-owned companies. Then there is that ultra-liberalism which believes big bad monopolies are not bad (as long as you're on their side and earn piles of money from them, of course). Usually both systems ends in the same way - bad products and exploited consumers.

        1. MyffyW Silver badge

          Bad Products

          Thanks @LDS for an even-handed response. I understand your point that state monopolies can be bloody awful (best case: British Rail, worst case: Aeroflot). My argument is that there is nothing in socialism that inherently creates them, whereas they are a recurrent feature in the model of capitalism we have been following since the 18th century.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Bad Products

            > state monopolies can be bloody awful ... My argument is that there is nothing in socialism that inherently creates them

            "The workers control the means of production"

            I suppose technically the state could create lots of small workers cooperatives which are managed independently and competing with each other; but for that to work you'd have to accept that the badly-run ones might fail, and that would mean workers losing their jobs, and that wouldn't be acceptable.

            If there are multiple cooperatives which are all managed by the state, then that's the same as having a single large corporation, in all but name.

          2. LDS Silver badge

            Re: Bad Products

            Sorry, but socialism inherently creates state-owned monopolies. The "social ownership" has always ended in state-owned and controlled monopolies or oligopolies. It's not a surprise, the lust for power is a common denominator, regardless if a society is capitalist or socialist.

            Anyway, the "antitrust" concept was born in a liberal society - understanding the risks of too much concentration of power - be it political or economical. The problem arises when a system of "check and balances" - which are needed even outside the pure government functions, fails - and some entities are able to concentrate power and create big monopolies and oligopolies.

            A strong ethical force is needed to dismiss the appeal of big, unchecked power and therefore put limits to it.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: Bad Products

              Not even that's sufficient against a sufficiently powerful entity able to REWRITE the ethics and dumb down the public enough to see their plight as a GOOD thing.

    3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      WTF did you smoke this morning?

      Are you trying to tell us that Bell, Paramount Pictures (of the 1940 FCC case) where socialist or created in a socialist environment?

      1. Bill M

        He just gave me a toke of what he was smoking and I can now confirm Uber's plan is to replace drivers with invisible pink unicorns.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "I can now confirm Uber's plan is to replace drivers with invisible pink unicorns."

          Long term, yes. Monkeys are the wheel are a short term measure. Those 40,000 drivers will all be redundant sooner or later.

    4. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Oh do behave.

      You know what you're doing, you've gone AC.

    5. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "Socialism makes bad monopolies possible"

      So does unfettered capitalism. The only difference is who enforces it.

      (Hint, we've tried unfettered capitalism, it didn't work out well)

      Taxi provision in most towns/cities have historically been through cycles of legislated monopolies, increasing customer frustration and eventually deregulation leading to open slather - which usually leads quickly to a bunch of bankruptcies and a local monopoly who then aim for legislation to become entrenched.

      There never seems to be a happy medium - and by that I don't mean the twisted duopoly that London has of the arcane City of London Guild of Black Cabs(*) vs private hire minicabs.

      The poor consumer is stuck in the middle - regulations aren't aimed at ensuring the best possible market for them, but to either lock out competition or try to ensure that vehicles at least have 4 wheels and working brakes, with very little in between.

      (*) The Knowledge is a Guild-based requirement and black cabbies are one of the few guilds where the City of London still has power to dictate the rules outside the square mile. Thankfully other UK cities are more sensible about hailing vs hire car services.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Irrelevant

    I'm sure Uber wants to be a monopoly: which big company doesn't? But in the final analysis, the barriers to entry of competitors are relatively low, and I'm willing to bet that the biggest is actually getting and keeping a TFL license.

    If VC's want to piss away money on Uber users, that sounds great to me: it's no business of the government or TFL. The best way to ensure long term competition would be to streamline the approvals process for competitors, whomever they might be. Which is exactly what TFL has *not* been doing, trying to impose additional requirements instead.

    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/oct/16/uber-wins-high-court-case-taxi-app-tfl

    I think a lot of what the current case can be summarised as is politics. London government is run by people who's funding stream is basically the unions, who have all sorts of ideological as well as practical objections to companies like Uber. Hence, any way of crippling them suits those same unions just fine.

    1. graeme leggett Silver badge

      Re: Irrelevant

      "Streamline the approvals process"

      Surely you meant "make sure the approvals process makes a fair and balanced judgement of the merits of the application in a reasonable time bearing in mind applicable law on anti-competitive conduct etc"

      eg from Gov "Avoid and report anti-competitive activity" https://www.gov.uk/cartels-price-fixing

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Irrelevant

      >If VC's want to piss away money on Uber users ...

      >it's no business of the government or TFL.

      Well TFL acted within its defined obligations - it didn't get into the funding of Uber.

      However if a company attempts to obtain a monopoly position by dodgy employment practice and long term loss-making undercutting of established businesses that seems like fair game for government intervention regardless of whether that governments focus is maintenance of a fair market or working conditions for drivers or some combination of both.

      1. Rob D. Bronze badge

        Re: Irrelevant

        > However if a company attempts to obtain a monopoly position by dodgy employment practice and long term loss-making undercutting of established businesses that seems like fair game for government intervention

        True but it has sod all to do with TfL issuing a license to operate. TfL is the body with a statutory obligation to enforce the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998, and is not a sub-division of the Competition and Markets Authority.

    3. Just Enough

      Re: Irrelevant

      Uber can't be a monopoly, regulations will not permit that. However, it's their efforts to dominate the market in as near monopoly as possible that will kill any competition. This is not good for the consumer.

      We've already seen this in the bus industry. Large national company floods into an area with buses, undercutting the fares of established, smaller competitors and making a loss with every passenger. Continue doing this until the competition has to withdraw or go under. Then cut the number of buses and hike the fares to regain healthy profitability in a near monopoly position.

      The unions' problem with Uber, whether they are pulling strings or not, is their disregard for hard-won labour laws where they treat their drivers like hired serfs. Frankly, I'm ok with the unions having a problem with that.

      This is Uber's behaviour, quite apart from its usual 'bending' of the rules because it's a special "disruptor" company which thinks the rules don't apply to them.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Irrelevant

        "This is Uber's behaviour, quite apart from its usual 'bending' of the rules because it's a special "disruptor" company which thinks the rules don't apply to them."

        The saddest thing of this sorry affair is that is exactly what so many people seem to see Uber as. A small start-up disrupter being stamped on by the bullyboys. They spend lots of money maintaining that image when the reality is the are a multi-billion dollar, multi-national mega-corp stomping on any rules they don't like, spending their way to success. The problem Uber has over other "innovative" start-ups who grew up too fast to mature into adults is that their business model really is a shaky house of cards. They can't undercut the competition by scaling up because the fixed cost part of the journey always stays the same, no matter how big you are. The only way they can undercut is by subsidising using the VC money.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Irrelevant

      "If VC's want to piss away money on Uber users, that sounds great to me: it's no business of the government or TFL."

      Until Uber have pissed all over the competition and ended up a monopoly and suddenly decide they need to make back all those billions spent buying the monopoly.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Passing fad ...

    I hope Uber drivers aren't planning on making it a career ...

    The new paradigm will eschew private car ownership, as the availability of self driving cars starts to offset the cost of keeping a car.

    The killer punch will the fact that insuring a car for a human driver will start to look ludicrous when self-driving cars start racking up millions - billions - of miles without serious incident.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Passing fad ...

      I hope Uber drivers aren't planning on making it a career ...

      The specific issue with London is that it is not a GIG as in GIG Economy. It is a piece of daily bread for a large fraction of the population. As a result said population also does everything they can to increase their profitability beyond the measly margin they get from Uber. They chip their vehicles, remove emission controls, skimp on maintenance, insurance, certifications, etc as much as they possible can.

      You may not like the regulated taxi industry, but they used to keep a lot of this under control.

      "Used to" is the correct word here. In order to face the competition from Uber a lot of the private hire and taxi companies have switched to a similar model where the driver owns or leases the car and they can pretend that they are not aware of all the mods they have done to make it more profitable.

      1. Rob D. Bronze badge

        Re: Passing fad ...

        > They chip their vehicles, remove emission controls, skimp on maintenance, insurance, certifications, etc as much as they possible can.

        So today is National Invent-A-Grievance Day? Any references to go with that?

        FWIW Uber didn't invent this market - the same kind of driver-owned sub-contract model with central operator has been running for a decade here in my local town. The drivers hate it and I tip them heavily but the operator gets their license renewed every time.

  6. Warm Braw Silver badge

    The biggest is actually getting and keeping a TFL license

    If you've ever used a minicab in London, I think you'd realise that the bar is set fairly low. If you look at Uber's business practices around the world it would appear they've actually put considerably more effort into finding ways of evading regulation than would have been required to comply: that would be the action of a psycopath, not a victim.

    1. Blank Reg Silver badge

      Re: The biggest is actually getting and keeping a TFL license

      They don't evade regulations, they completely ignore them in many cases.

  7. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    The London Reconnections blog has an article on TFL withdrawing Uber's license at www.londonreconnections.com/2017/understanding-uber-not-app/.

    If its TL;DR: One apparently key piece of evidence TfL used in assessing whether to renew Uber's license was a letter from the Police, where the Police state that Uber are not as forthcoming as they should be about allegations against their drivers.

    One interesting fact from the article: In New York, your Uber fair only covers 41% of the cost of making the journey. So Uber are bankrolling journeys to quite a hefty degree.

    1. Death_Ninja

      Al Capone

      I see the TFL case against Uber the same as putting away Al Capone for tax evasion.

      Uber is symbolic of everything that is wrong with employment today and if they get shut down because of some issue which is the tip of the iceberg, so be it. Find something to destroy this disgusting exploitative plague.

      When you are done with that one, target the next one.

    2. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      I was going to post the same link. The LondonReconnections article is by far and away the best article on the topic I've read, although a bit slow as their servers are straining under the load.

      The bankrolling issue is definitely a key point. As a friend once pointed out about the business he'd just run from, if you're losing 5p a transaction you can't make it up with volume. I presume Uber is aware of this and so are following the "expand to force everyone else out of the sector, then raise prices" model.

      1. pPPPP

        I read that article last night, and honestly I don't think I have anything to add. It explains the situation very well and does a good job of highlighting how utterly abhorrent many tech firms are, and how their response is typically to shout "Luddite" when anyone criticises their malpractice.

        The biggest problem is the millions of drones who don't seem to mind.

      2. Rob D. Bronze badge

        The bankrolling issue may be a problem within the market but it isn't an issue that TfL have any jurisdiction over. The LR article is better than most though - decent dissection of the MPS concerns including the reference to the actual letter from April 2017, although no indication what changed since then (other than Uber's CEO).

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "if you're losing 5p a transaction you can't make it up with volume"

        That not entirely true. It depends which costs are being subsidised. If it's things like back-office overheads, then those can certainly be reduced with increased volume as that cost would be spread over a greater number of transactions. It's economy of scale.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "if you're losing 5p a transaction you can't make it up with volume"

          "It's economy of scale."

          But it's still a loss, even if the 5p is spread across 1M transactions.

          I think Uber's idea is to completely take over transport, raise prices, then remove any competitors using any means possible.

        2. xXSwolGunzXx

          Re: "if you're losing 5p a transaction you can't make it up with volume"

          C'mon guy, you know he meant negative net revenue.

  8. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

    Black cabs vs minicabs vs Uber...

    ... Is there any way for them all to lose?

    1. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge

      Re: Black cabs vs minicabs vs Uber...

      The only reason that Uber looks good as compared to black cabs is that it is being bankrolled by VCs, who would appear to think that it has a good chance of putting most of the local private hire operators out of business, and possibly hurting the black cab operators as well.

      Having said that, a wake-up call for the black cab operators is long over-due, not only in London but also in much of the US. Over there, a licence to operate a taxi cab costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and the numbers are being kept low by the dead hand of union protectionism.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Black cabs vs minicabs vs Uber...

        'wake up call for black cab.....'

        I'm not going to defend Uber the company, or uber the business model, but a couple of points in connection to your point.

        1. Last time I had a weekend in the smoke, the family and me traveled almost everywhere via Uber. When there are 4 of you, economies of scale make it cheaper than public transport. Added to one of the party having a recent 'life changing' operation, and the choice between sitting in a Prius, and standing on a bus or tube was clear.

        2. It was good. Way better than black cab experiences of old. Sorry for any naysayers : I found it easier, cheaper, more convenient, more accessible. In other words, better.

        3. The squealing of cabbies is a classic warning sign : They could see someone getting in on their racket and they didn't like it.

        Whether Uber survive in the long term, I don't really mind, I'm not a shareholder. But if it's shaken up the dodgy mini-cab, and the monopoly like black cab market in London, it's served it purpose.

      2. Colin 22

        Re: Black cabs vs minicabs vs Uber...

        There are two balanced articles on unherd.com; one pro-Uber, one against. Well worth a read. It is always good to read an opinion that you disagree with

        1. Rob D. Bronze badge

          Re: Black cabs vs minicabs vs Uber...

          Those two articles on unherd.com are interesting and balanced but they do tend to follow the pattern of giving a nod to why TfL declined to renew ULL's PHV operator license, but then mostly discuss whether Uber and others have a good/moral business model or not.

          When you blend the two pieces, collectively they both imply the need for regulation to assist in a transition to a level playing field (you can't cry foul for Uber drivers then not care about black cabbies who have to pay through the nose for extra licensing and certification for example), and the need for regulation to assist in keeping the London market viable (not starved and expensive, but not over-run, cheap but congested). Both also make passing reference that TfL's licensing decision could turn out to be influenced by political and vested interests.

  9. m0rt Silver badge

    Good article.

    As a result, I will turn my ad blocker off for the rest of the week.

  10. codejunky Silver badge

    Erm

    If Uber offers nothing new then what is the threat? Why is it such a concern that they apparently do nothing more than anyone else because surely they will struggle to differentiate itself and wont be a significant threat?

    If Uber offers such awful terms in comparison to the others then nobody will work for them especially as they are not employees and take all the risk. It wont be worth it to anyone and nobody will do it then?

    So if this comment article holds true then Uber has no workers and few customers. And so wont need regulating out of existence?

    1. notowenwilson

      Re: Erm

      The threat is that in the time it takes for their VC funders to run out of cash, a whole load of low-middle class drivers will be driven to the wall and go broke. I'm not talking about the Uber drivers who are getting short changed by 10 or 15 percent. I'm talking about the minicab drivers who are losing 50+% of their income.

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: Erm

        @ notowenwilson

        "The threat is that in the time it takes for their VC funders to run out of cash"

        And what happens when they run out of cash? Lets imagine a world where Uber undercuts everyone, gets a monopoly and puts everyone (every single one) out of business. The VC's will be expecting their money back, yet this low margin business wont allow them to ramp up the price because any man and his car can do it cheaper.

        Most likely the VC's will run out of money before everyone is out of business and find themselves running the same kind of pricing scheme with less benefits than current firms, which will cause the workers to move back. Unless Uber is offering something people want and suitable to the workers.

    2. thegroucho
      FAIL

      Re: Erm

      You clearly must have been living under a rock.

      Just try 'uber greyball' in Google or your favorite search engine.

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: Erm

        @ thegroucho

        "Just try 'uber greyball' in Google or your favorite search engine."

        If they are breaking the law then charge them. I am all for that.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Erm

          If they are breaking the law then charge them. I am all for that.

          Oh, ha ha! Jolly good laugh!

    3. Jason 24

      Re: Erm

      "If Uber offers such awful terms in comparison to the others then nobody will work for them "

      I think you underestimate how desperate some people are for any sort of work.

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: Erm

        @ Jason 24

        "I think you underestimate how desperate some people are for any sort of work."

        Why? We had a recession and people panicked that they would all lose their jobs, some did. We are back to full employment and growth and have been for some time. There are jobs and I am talking about jobs as employees not freelancing for Uber. There are choices and if Uber is so bad people will change jobs.

        In countries where employment is less than so good I would agree with you and I am not saying we are booming for jobs either, but to say the situation is so dire these people have no choice at all full stop but to work for Uber as they are the only employer is gonna require some serious convincing.

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: Erm

          Why? We had a recession and people panicked that they would all lose their jobs, some did. We are back to full employment and growth and have been for some time. There are jobs and I am talking about jobs as employees not freelancing for Uber. There are choices and if Uber is so bad people will change jobs.

          In countries where employment is less than so good I would agree with you and I am not saying we are booming for jobs either, but to say the situation is so dire these people have no choice at all full stop but to work for Uber as they are the only employer is gonna require some serious convincing.

          Ah yes. "Full employment". I'm not really convinced by this honestly. It seems at variance with my experiance of looking through stacks of CV's for entry level jobs on entry level pay. We get applications from people with lists of experiance and qualifications that read like war and peace which suggests a certain level of desperation.

          One suspects that if we really had something like full time employment then I wouldn't be seeing this. Presumably there are huge numbers of people working "part time" or on "zero hours contracts" who don't want to be and are desperately scrabbling to make ends meet.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Erm

          "We are back to full employment and growth and have been for some time."

          Not by a long shot. If we were there wouldn't be multiple hundreds of applications for every job we advertise.

          The reality is that the figures are being bodged with to hide the lack of fulltime equivalent jobs AND to seriously downplay the number of unemployed (by kicking them off the dole) and underemployed (if you have a zero hour contract, then you're no longer unemployed even if you work zero hours)

          1. codejunky Silver badge

            Re: Erm

            @ Peter2 and Alan Brown

            Both of you comment about how you get applications for jobs. I am going to need some context here. Is this UK/british applying? Is this the large portion of EU unemployed? Is this global workers coming for work prospects? Is it new waves of students trying to get a job or older people dealing with an increasing pension age? Is it people looking for a better wage than they were on?

            I have no answers to these but it would be interesting to know. I am assuming by entry level jobs they are not minimum wage? Is it a shift in the business sector you are in? Is this a location thing where the part of the country you are in is struggling?

            Whatever the situation it really does add weight against the Venezuelan approach (endorsed by Corbyn) and the EU approach (previously endorsed by all major parties). We could be in a much more serious situation and should be happy if VC's wish to pay for our taxi rides, people are willing to work in those conditions and people are willing to use the service.

            1. Peter2 Silver badge

              Re: Erm

              Both of you comment about how you get applications for jobs. I am going to need some context here. Is this UK/british applying? Is this the large portion of EU unemployed? Is this global workers coming for work prospects? Is it new waves of students trying to get a job or older people dealing with an increasing pension age? Is it people looking for a better wage than they were on?

              A combination of all of the above? You can't really tell, to be honest. People generally don't list their ages or nationalities on their CV's, and if minded will translate foreign employer names to english so it's rather difficult to tell. The only way you can tell older applicants is generally that they will have O level qualifications rather than GCSE's if dates are stripped out. (which is relatively common if people are concerned about age related discrimination)

              It would be discriminatory to go asking people questions about how old they are, what their background is etc, so we don't do it. We're trying to recruit people after all, not trying to definatively prove that government statistics on employment are so fiddled as to be worthless.

              We should not be happy if VC's want to pay to reduce the cost of taxi rides. They want to do it to force the competition out of business and form a monopoly, and are forcing undue hardship on workers both for their companies and their competitors while doing it. There are already competition laws outlawing this: they need using!

              Totally agree that all major parties have been seriously wrong over how to run the economy for years though, nobody can seriously argue against this without looking like a complete prat.

              1. codejunky Silver badge

                Re: Erm

                @ Peter2

                "A combination of all of the above? You can't really tell, to be honest."

                Thats a shame. I was really interested to know. I know people around the world (and from various parts of the world) who come here for a better life and our really good wages. I was talking with a russian friend who considered a <£20 phone case to be an expensive purchase. Not some novelty thing but a sturdy case to protect the phone, and yet in this country people blow that on cheap and nasty ones without a thought. I do think we underestimate the value of our country and lose perception of how rich it is in this world.

                "It would be discriminatory to go asking people questions about how old they are, what their background is etc, so we don't do it."

                I very much understand that. Our clients seem to either favour or be very welcoming to foreigners but considering they operate globally I expect it is a benefit to them so potentially favour them (I honestly dont know).

                "We should not be happy if VC's want to pay to reduce the cost of taxi rides. They want to do it to force the competition out of business and form a monopoly"

                Is this a problem? VC's will eventually run out of money, it is the Saudi problem with oil prices problem. They can pump in as much money as they want to artificially lower the price but when the price rises again (they have the monopoly) it is a contestable monopoly where a rival can restart very easily at the lower price. VC's are losing money to monopolise an industry they cannot fleece. Literally paying for our rides and giving the money away.

                "forcing undue hardship on workers both for their companies and their competitors"

                This is a 2 parter. Their workers choose to work for Uber to make the money. There are plenty other jobs and if there is such demand for taxi's then even the same job. They dont have to work for Uber and a company can attract workers by being desirable, and the opposite is true too.

                Making life hard for their competitors is not necessarily a bad thing. Amazon did it and as a result HMV which had enough power to charge outrageous prices was sunk. Small or disadvantaged sellers have access to a market once only available to the powerful. Another example is food is more varied and cheaper. Yes it disadvantages our home growers but personally I consider spending a small portion of my income on food to be a good thing compared to a considerable chunk of my pay (or practically all back in peasantry days).

                As long as laws are being followed I am not particularly for or against any business. In the end what I care about is the customer.

            2. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Erm

              "I am going to need some context here."

              In our case: Hundreds of applications from British applicants, most of whom are unqualified for the job or who we find at interview time can't answer questions that their qualifications indicate they should know (we always ask tech questions). Make of that what you will. I can't possibly comment about embellished CVs.

              There are usually a few applications from outside the UK but they're a lot more thought through as a rule. The impression of UK applications is that they're shotgunned out with no thought as to suitability and for the lower-skilled positions the applications can run into thousands.

              This is not what happens in a market with "full employment" - which I've worked in too.

              1. codejunky Silver badge

                Re: Erm

                @ Alan Brown

                "Hundreds of applications from British applicants, most of whom are unqualified for the job or who we find at interview time can't answer questions"

                To be honest that doesnt seem to be anything new and I encountered it when I was newly graduated to get tech jobs back in the longest boom ever. It was probably made much worse by all those annoying ads telling people to quit their jobs and go into IT. While I was at uni I met many of the people you talk about who were there because it wasnt a job. I could count on one hand how many wanted to learn and one lad irritated me with his stupidity and constant questions (I felt for the tutors) until I realised he had more interest in the subject than almost everyone else in class. After that I did what I could to help him catch up in technical knowledge.

                "There are usually a few applications from outside the UK but they're a lot more thought through as a rule."

                I can very well believe that too. I know people who have come here for a better life from the EU. I also know people who struggle to stay here (US and Asia) who almost rely on being a student first to get through the door. I also know others who because they are outside the EU cant come here because they dont want/need to be a student but would struggle to find sponsorship to come on a work visa. To do this stuff they really have to be motivated because the process is so painful.

                "The impression of UK applications is that they're shotgunned out with no thought as to suitability and for the lower-skilled positions the applications can run into thousands."

                That does not shock me at all and is also my experience. But then that has been the way since early 2000's

  11. Unep Eurobats
    Childcatcher

    Restriction of choice?

    Clogging central London with private-hire vehicles restricts people's choice to walk happily, cycle safely or journey quickly by bus.

    1. graeme leggett Silver badge

      Re: Restriction of choice?

      an interesting subject - what's the take up of Uber in those countries perceived as less car-centric and with a history of bicycles and public transport? eg the Netherlands

      1. H in The Hague Silver badge

        Re: Restriction of choice?

        "what's the take up of Uber in .... eg the Netherlands"

        Just happened to read a newspaper article about that:

        UberX, which uses professional drivers with the appropriate licence (basically taxis) is legal and operates but I don't know at what scale.

        UberPOP, with casual drivers, the London model, does not meet legal requirements here. I think they tried it for a while but got shut down.

        On the whole, taxis don't seem to be a big thing here. Perhaps used to get from the station to an appointment, or to the airport with luggage. In the cities public transport, bikes, bikes rented from train stations, and cars seem to be dominant.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    With any luck, Uber will be sunk by the Waymo case, and none of this will be relevant in the end anyway.

    The one thing that does amaze me though is how many signatures they got on that petition. Nearly eight hundred thousand signatures represents something like ten percent of the population of London. Seriously?

    For comparison, the anti-Brexit petition, calling for a second referendum (which was a subject that people really did care about) managed to get 4 million signatures across the whole country.

    So, either Londoners care significantly more deeply about Uber's licence than about Brexit... or else the Uber petition is rigged with fake votes.

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      re:ten percent of the population of London. Seriously?

      Probably 1%, with the rest all bots.

      The petition sites were a good idea, but unless we find a way to restrict them to eligible citizens, they are going the way of google. Too much noise, not enough signal.

      Of course, the uber-cynical (see what I did there ?) would content that was the entire idea behind online petitions in the first place.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: re:ten percent of the population of London. Seriously?

        I think there are actually a hell of a lot of people don't really care what's going on as long as they have a convenient form of transport that costs far less than a taxi. Just as there are many people who don't care how many babies are killed to make their cheap clothes that they can throw out after wearing once.

        1. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: re:ten percent of the population of London. Seriously?

          @AC

          "Just as there are many people who don't care how many babies are killed to make their cheap clothes that they can throw out after wearing once."

          Very true. But the equation has 2 sides, customer and worker. if there are customers then there is demand for the workers, but if the conditions are awful people will choose to work somewhere else and the conditions will improve in the developed world.

          Your statement about deaths for cheap clothes is also very true but the solution is to actually buy them. While counter intuitive it is that demand which creates more jobs (something poor countries tend to be short of) which dries up the available labour and causes improving conditions. China being a fair example of starving to death under communism and yet after importing jobs that are 'beneath the western world' they became so prosperous that they now farm out those jobs to poorer countries themselves.

          1. Rob D. Bronze badge

            Re: re:ten percent of the population of London. Seriously?

            > Your statement about deaths for cheap clothes is also very true but the solution is to actually buy them. While counter intuitive it is that demand which creates more jobs ...

            That is the whole point of capitalism (simplistically speaking). You get someone to make/do something more cheaply than you can sell/deliver something and make a living off the difference. Uber are getting people to provide a service more cheaply than Uber can sell the service. Not saying the conclusion here is to take more taxi trips to help out taxi drivers if you think their earnings are too low but it's the same axis.

            Taken to the extreme though, it still becomes a pyramid scheme which is where regulation comes in.

          2. DanceMan

            Re: China being a fair example

            China only made that economy work by combining cheap labour with a one child policy.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: China being a fair example

              Chinese labour hasn't been cheaper than western labour for about a decade. They're winning on logistics and having everything in one place.

              That one child policy means that the chinese are facing an even more extreme version of the pensions trainwreck that took out Japan's economy 20 years ago and is currently engulfing the western world. Other countries which had such policies are now frantically encouraging people to have more children in order to ensure they have enough taxpayers to sustain the whole mess in 20 years time.

              1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                Re: China being a fair example

                Except all that does is kick the can down the road because what happens when THOSE children age and go into retirement? IOW, at some point, you WILL have a reckoning to get the population back under control.

          3. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: re:ten percent of the population of London. Seriously?

            "While counter intuitive it is that demand which creates more jobs (something poor countries tend to be short of) which dries up the available labour and causes improving conditions. China being a fair example of starving to death under communism"

            As a counterpoint for that, Burma is now steamrolling into the garment trade, with most of the local investors being part of the junta that used to be in charge. This is all happening in areas of the country well away from trouble spots (ie, nowhere near the Rohinga, Karen or Shan areas). The local population is swallowing government propaganda justifying the ongoing ethnic clensing (which has been going on for over a decade) and the military are still in charge in these areas, with Ms Su Kyi having already made it clear in various speeches (done in london 5-7 years ago) that she supports the military in this aspect.

            Which means that pulling back out of the garment trade is one of the few ways of bringing pinchpoint economic pressure to bear on Burma in such a way that the generals will pay attention, due to their now-"civilianised" mates phoning them up and berating them for hurting business.

            In other instances I'd agree with you, but this is a specific case where the economic benefits of global trade are not going to result in things improving for a targetted and oppressed minority.

    2. DuchessofDukeStreet

      You're assuming that the petition was signed solely by London residents. I know numbers of people who've signed it, and shared it online, who live elsewhere in the UK and, in a few cases, in different countries where Uber doesn't currently operate. But they've heard so much about how cheap and easy it is to be a Uber customer, they don't really care about employment practices or law evasion techniques or business ethics/morals so long as they can summon a cheap fare from the convenience of their smartphone screen.

      (Uber operates where I live - I've never used it for similar reasons to why I've never used Ryanair)

  13. Anne-Lise Pasch

    The article suggests economy of scale is the only reason Uber should take a chunk of the market. I thought it was because the app made it more convenient, and the GPS tracking made it (contentiously) more secure. If the travel cost was identical to the competition, I'd still rather take the option that gets me A to B with vehicle tracking and a low lead time. the competitive advantage is service offering, not pricing.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Some minicab companies have similar (ish) apps. So I guess he's trying to see whether there's an advantage in economies of scale or not if Uber are a cab company. As eventually this kind of tech gets cheaper, and any minicab company can have it. Or in 10 years Google just integrate it into Android "find my nearest empty cab).

      So I guess the question is, should Uber have gone for the less sexy, and less world-domination, play of just coming up with a really good system for booking cabs - like Hungry House does with takeaways? Then they'd just become a piece of infrastructure that cab companies could slot into, and get a small percentage. Plus lots of lovely data to sell of course.

      Or alternatively they could have been even more boring, and just sold services to the cab industry.

      But if they're no cheaper at doing the cab bit than the cab firms, then they're never going to be able to dominate the market, and eventually their tech will be beaten by some other system that consumers are happy with. Clearly it's much easier as a user to just go to one app and find the nearest/cheapest cab from all the competing local companies.

      1. The Indomitable Gall

        @ I ain't Spartacus

        " eventually their tech will be beaten by some other system that consumers are happy with. "

        Better tech's all well and good, but the problem with competitiveness in a modern data-driven company is that the incumbents all have a backlog of data and an embedded userbase that no-one else does.

        YouTube already knows what videos I like to watch, and can hook me for hours with recommendation after recommendation. Any new competitor wouldn't be able to trap me on their site for anywhere near the same amount of time.

        Google augments its processing of my words with knowledge of my history, so search results are more relevant to me. No new competitor would be able to provide me with better results than Google, even if their tech was perfect, because they're lacking that data, and short-term convenience wins.

        The article points out that Uber's big advantage is this same one -- they know people's habits and they know usage patterns, and new entrants start off on the back foot as they don't have any of that.

        1. Rob D. Bronze badge

          Isn't that just first-mover advantage and the point of being the entrepreneur who takes the up front risk? This year's (successful) disruptive early entrant is next year's stymied incumbent. E.g. https://goo.gl/images/6WtJcX.

      2. Old Tom

        Re: Or in 10 years Google just integrate it into Android "find my nearest empty cab).

        You haven't clicked the taxi tab in Google Maps' directions lately, have you?

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "Or alternatively they could have been even more boring, and just sold services to the cab industry."

        Strangley enough, that's what they do. Uber in Netherlands operates the app and take your payment and then subcontracts the actual journey to Uber London. If Uber London lose their licence, there's nothing stopping Uber Netherlands from sub-contracting the journey to other licensed minicab companies.

        Of course, it'll never happen. But even if it did, the money stall goes out of the country with the bare minimum coming back to pay the drivers. At least with the local minicab firms, most of the money stays in the UK.

      4. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "Some minicab companies have similar (ish) apps"

        Yup, and they brought them out before Uber arrived in London. What Uber brings is marketing and slave wages.

        Ironically, a few Black Cabbies tried the app route about a decade ago and were drummed out of business by cartel tactics from the other driveers.

    2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      "The article suggests economy of scale is the only reason Uber should take a chunk of the market "

      Not really.

  14. Blake St. Claire

    Perhaps not, but upsetting the entrenched incumbents was definitely a win where I live.

    Being able to hail a ride. Having drivers use a Nav for the (usually) most direct route. Being able to pay with a credit card. I can't tell you how many times a taxi driver told me "the machine doesn't work." Ever since Uber and Lyft appeared on the scene "the machines" all magically work.

    I won't use Uber because of their shenanigans. I'd guess about half the cars I see have both Uber and Lyft stickers, so I don't believe I'm suffering by not using Uber. I do think everyone that's driving for them are being duped, but we'll have to wait and see how long it is before real self-driving cars are a real thing.

  15. jason 7

    Its all about bringing back serfdom.

    First they brought out an app to make taxi drivers cheaper and I applauded!

    Then they brought out an app to make builders cheaper and I applauded!

    Then they brought out an app to make plumbers cheaper and I applauded!

    Then they brought out an app to make IT support/networking guys cheaper and I was fucked and not happy at all about that, in fact it's bloody outrageous and just pushing the jobs market to the bottom and quite frankly there ought to be a law against it!

    Uber is NOT about making getting around a city easier. It's a shoe in for the powers that be to slowly strip us of unions, employment and wage rights around the world.

    As a Harry Enfield character would say "If that's what you want then that's what'll happen!"

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Its all about bringing back serfdom.

      I would like to see what would happen if all those journos happily incensing Uber on the general press would do the day newspapers could find someone to cover news or write any article with an app.... and choose the cheaper one.

      I've already seen tennis reports for various events around the world edited in Bangalore....

    2. Rob D. Bronze badge
      Coat

      Re: Its all about bringing back serfdom.

      Can I get an app to replace all my serfs, then? It would be so much more convenient.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      In this respect it is the perfect poster-boy for Free Market Capitalism

      Unrestricted free market capitalism is all about these things and Uber is a great exemplar of all the tawdry awfulness that late capitalism gifts us with.

      "This is what capitalism is," it tells us, "this is what capitalists want." If we want something other than the most oppressive race to the bottom of the worst available barrel and then through it into the fatberg-limned sewers then maybe we need a better model for our society than this one. That is what Uber is trying to tell us.

      1. jason 7

        Re: In this respect it is the perfect poster-boy for Free Market Capitalism

        Thing is, the elites created us a 'consumer society' but how does that work when the consumers eventually have no money to consume?

        Does the 1% then consume itself? Wiping out the bottom 99% of the 1% till only one is left standing with all the money.

        Holy Shit! I've cracked it. The world is just running one huge game of Monopoly!!!

        I'd better run before they track me down!

        1. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: In this respect it is the perfect poster-boy for Free Market Capitalism

          @ jason 7

          "Thing is, the elites created us a 'consumer society' but how does that work when the consumers eventually have no money to consume?"

          When is there nothing to consume? People died of starvation, consumers for food. People desire transport, consumers for the varying incremental improvements and methods of transport. The consumer societies have developed and grown providing new insights, methods and services beyond anything conceivable throughout most of history. We consume music, literature, video, long range communications both audio and visual, transport good (including perishables) across the globe and have moved past basic survival to such a degree that for some people the most important aspect of their life is to be a SJW.

          Of course we could throw that away like Venezuela and reject markets, capitalism and the right to make cakes instead of bread (people have actually been arrested because this is a law).

          1. jason 7

            Re: In this respect it is the perfect poster-boy for Free Market Capitalism

            But what I'm saying is that those at the top want to take away our money and jobs. So how do we buy their products when they have taken the very money we need to buy them?

            Wall Street hails the likes of McDonalds for trying to replace serving staff with machines. But then the consumer economy loses millions of people at the bottom that actually buy those very products.

            How many Big Macs, Krispy Cremes and Corvettes does Buffet or the Koch Bros buy a year? Not many I'm guessing.

            It's slitting your own economic throat. But I guess we all work on short term goals now.

            Fuck tomorrow.

            1. codejunky Silver badge

              Re: In this respect it is the perfect poster-boy for Free Market Capitalism

              @ jason 7

              "But what I'm saying is that those at the top want to take away our money and jobs. So how do we buy their products when they have taken the very money we need to buy them?"

              How? Are they putting this money in a vault that nobody can access? Are they doing all the jobs to confiscate them? Not at all. They invest the money which brings jobs or they put it in a bank which loans it out to businesses which brings jobs. In fact they splurge it on their wants and desires just like everyone else does and since only people spend money and money only has value to people it must be a person spending and receiving it.

              "Wall Street hails the likes of McDonalds for trying to replace serving staff with machines."

              With fantastic reason. Minimum wage is a wonderful way of saying that if you dont produce anything of value over a specific amount then what you are doing is not worth doing. That is a truly rich persons statement which is why rich countries have such a situation. Yet the recent demand for more automation has been pushed because of unrealistic demands of the minimum wage being pretty wealthy by world standards and beyond what can be currently be supported with human labour. Basically if people think their time is worth more than the job they are doing either the job goes or they get replaced, previously by a poorer countries population or now by automation.

              "But then the consumer economy loses millions of people at the bottom that actually buy those very products."

              No. I am personally very happy not to spend my day (from sparrow fart to dark) standing in some bloody muddy field with the driving force being to avoid starvation. The ushering in of tools saved me and 90% of the population from such peasantry. I am also grateful not to be working in a factory. Again automation saved >60% of the population from that! And yet we import vastly more people and yet still have full employment.

              "How many Big Macs, Krispy Cremes and Corvettes does Buffet or the Koch Bros buy a year? Not many I'm guessing."

              Probably not many, I have no idea. I am guessing they are the kind of people who bought those damned huge bricks which consisted mostly of a battery just so they could make highly expensive phone calls with little reception. That would be the precursor to the little pocket sized device with the capacity of calls, sms and more which can be bought for almost nothing (and often thrown out with such regard) and possibly the more functional smart phone version which is ubiquitous now. Likely on a payment plan or pay as you go which even the 'poor' in this country can afford and as such is now seen as almost a necessity.

              "It's slitting your own economic throat. But I guess we all work on short term goals now."

              Short term is jumping without thinking. For example demanding a minimum wage vastly higher than sustainable. Or government splurging to buy votes leaving the future to pay for no real gain and probably just a liability. Short termism is barely looking back or even outside our little place on earth to decide what is poor. We have never been so wealthy as a population throughout history! We think little of food or where it comes from (in growing it or its travels), nor of travelling huge distances on a whim, nor the joy of actually having time off and reduced working hours for this greater wage, nor our taken for granted welfare state we demand does more and deserves even more money, nor our capability of communicating with each other over vast distances even across the earth in almost real time!

              And so on. There are people in this world who know absolutely nothing of any of that nor even of being employed at all. Only to get on with subsistence living or starve to death. This article is a discussion of taxi companies for god sake! I think we are a long way off apocalypse of the hardships of life.

              1. jason 7

                Re: In this respect it is the perfect poster-boy for Free Market Capitalism

                I think you've drunk too much of the Wall Street Kool Aid.

                1. codejunky Silver badge

                  Re: In this respect it is the perfect poster-boy for Free Market Capitalism

                  @ jason 7

                  "I think you've drunk too much of the Wall Street Kool Aid."

                  Do feel free to give some kind of information, evidence, anything of value to add to the discussion then. I read plenty explaining the very stuff I have written. If you disagree there are 2 things you can do- provide a reasoned explanation of why you disagree and what may be wrong with the presented information. Or as you have responded which sounds like you have no actual factual response.

                  I have no issue discussing if you have the ability to do so. If not dont worry, I am happy to assume that is the best answer you have to an economic discussion.

              2. Charles 9 Silver badge

                Re: In this respect it is the perfect poster-boy for Free Market Capitalism

                There's a big problem, though. Dead ended people get desperate, and as they say, desperate people do desperate things. That's why you have things like wars, especially bloody ones fueled by people with nothing to lose.

                I'd elaborate, but I'm mobile right now. Basically, when the haves close the walled garden to hash it out amongst themselves, things won't be pleasant.

                1. DanceMan

                  Re: Dead ended people get desperate

                  A friend at work went to his son's wedding in Mexico city. Son was marrying a girl from a wealthy family who lived in a gated, I think guarded, community. Her father drove his Mercedes through red lights rather than stopping and being vulnerable to hijack.

                  This is where the race to the bottom gets you, an unstable, dangerous society.

              3. DanceMan

                Re: They invest the money which brings jobs

                This is myth, not reality. Lowered corporate taxes resulted in companies sitting on cash rather than investing it. I just watched a doc today on DV on income disparity that pointed out the increase in wealth of the richest. They don't spend it all, they save it. That's one of the ways they get rich.

                1. codejunky Silver badge

                  Re: They invest the money which brings jobs

                  @ DanceMan

                  "Lowered corporate taxes resulted in companies sitting on cash rather than investing it."

                  This comes back to my question of where? Do they put it in some vault where it is locked away never to see the light? Unless they remove it from the world (aka stick it in a vault) then they cant sit on cash. If it is in a bank it is invested (the bank lends it out), if they buy stocks/bonds they are investing it, if they buy assets they are spending it. So where is this money?

                  "They don't spend it all, they save it. That's one of the ways they get rich."

                  This is an option most people have yet still the number of people I know who spend it all and more amazes me. So many people could be so much more comfortable if they didnt just spend all they had and more, but their interest payments do provide cheap and free bank accounts for the rest of us.

                  "This is where the race to the bottom gets you, an unstable, dangerous society."

                  This is true. And people from those societies seek to reach our societies. However some people in our societies seem to desire changes to turn into the more dangerous societies.

                  1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                    Re: They invest the money which brings jobs

                    I'm back on a keyboard, so now I can respond in detail.

                    "This comes back to my question of where? Do they put it in some vault where it is locked away never to see the light?"

                    Depends. Most invest it in idle stuff like real estate that, by simple dint of human growth, becomes increasingly scarce and thus more valuable. That's why it's the go-to investment for the REALLY rich. Thing is, once they lock in their investment, THEN they sit on it. After all, why bother to move it if you don't have to. It becomes a nest egg. Plus it helps in Tax Planning 101 (aka Buy, Borrow, Die), where they borrow against their assets to avoid taxes (heirs then use the carry-over basis to pay the debts off after they die at reduced capital gains taxes).

                    To take a literary example, consider the late Terry Pratchett's view of the rich through the perspective of the Ramkin family: old and very, very rich because they're holding lots of value that kept appreciating over time.

                    "This is an option most people have yet still the number of people I know who spend it all and more amazes me. So many people could be so much more comfortable if they didnt just spend all they had and more, but their interest payments do provide cheap and free bank accounts for the rest of us."

                    Thing is, the Cost of Living tends to be inflexible for a given area. More people than you know aren't earning enough take-home to cover this; many others are barely over and still need to cover other necessary (and sometimes unexpected) expenses. It's hard to save up when your paycheck is already spoken for.

                    This is true. And people from those societies seek to reach our societies. However some people in our societies seem to desire changes to turn into the more dangerous societies.

                    1. codejunky Silver badge

                      Re: They invest the money which brings jobs

                      @ Charles 9

                      "Depends. Most invest it in idle stuff like real estate"

                      I can accept that, but then they are not locking the money away, instead it goes to the whole stream of people involved in developing that project (from the top in an office to the tradesman on the ground). I can very well believe they put there money where they hope it will grow in value, we all should be trying to do that surely?

                      Interestingly if the planning laws were relaxed and development could be done in a reasonable time scale then the rich would likely come out of property, but again the money will be invested somewhere to make a return, and that money/investment to make more value employs people.

                      "Thing is, the Cost of Living tends to be inflexible for a given area. More people than you know aren't earning enough take-home to cover this; many others are barely over and still need to cover other necessary (and sometimes unexpected) expenses. It's hard to save up when your paycheck is already spoken for."

                      That covers some people's situation, so what about the vast majority? I am the sole earner in this household on an average salary for 2 people and we have more money than our neighbours who have 2 incomes and forever spending. And this isnt a one off example this is ridiculously normal. While he is not in the UK I do listen to a guy called Dave Ramsey on youtube who walks through these exact same issues in the US. If you can ignore his constant religious references he gives advice on money which I cant believe people need to be told. And it very well mirrors experiences I have with a lot of people I meet or chat with. It is scary how many people have their paycheck spoken for with no thought or reason why.

                      "I'm back on a keyboard, so now I can respond in detail"

                      I appreciate the response. It is an interesting topic and hopefully can provide useful for people in difficulty.

                      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                        Re: They invest the money which brings jobs

                        "I can accept that, but then they are not locking the money away, instead it goes to the whole stream of people involved in developing that project (from the top in an office to the tradesman on the ground). I can very well believe they put there money where they hope it will grow in value, we all should be trying to do that surely?"

                        That's IF they develop it. If they just let it lie and allow it to appreciate simply out of scarcity, that's another story. Like buying gold, jewelry, and other precious commodities to sit on them and appreciate.

                        "That covers some people's situation, so what about the vast majority?"

                        That's EXACTLY what I'm saying. Give or take.

                        1. codejunky Silver badge

                          Re: They invest the money which brings jobs

                          @ Charles 9

                          "That's IF they develop it. If they just let it lie and allow it to appreciate simply out of scarcity"

                          As I said this is a government problem. The scarcity is due to regulations and interference that makes abundant things scarce. Also what is wrong with them buying assets such as gold, jewellery etc? They get a lump of something which does nothing. It changes in value but the thing doesnt do anything. They do however have to hand over money for it and its maintenance/storage. If they buy land or property they again have to pay maintenance costs for something even if they do nothing with it. That 'asset' can lose value as easy as it gains but the money has already been handed out and even the lowly miner has money to go get more metal that pushes down the value of that he mined before.

                          "That's EXACTLY what I'm saying. Give or take."

                          That covers a small population. That small population benefits from falling costs and investment. Those people would be dead, but we are in a country where food is abundant while our capacity to produce food is rubbish. We dont really have natural resources in abundance yet we are one of the richest countries in the world, our minimum wage being enviable to other countries who know real poverty. And of course we strive for better, and should. But better comes from such investment even if it is some rich VC paying for our pleasures. They are the reason we have the lives we have now.

                          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                            Re: They invest the money which brings jobs

                            "We dont really have natural resources in abundance yet we are one of the richest countries in the world, our minimum wage being enviable to other countries who know real poverty."

                            Except money is RELATIVE. To REALLY compare, you have to measure it against that area's cost of living to see if that wage really is a living wage or not. I mean, there are places where $5 a day will get you more than enough food to survive the day while others where $10 wouldn't get you a decent lunch.

                            1. codejunky Silver badge

                              Re: They invest the money which brings jobs

                              @ Charles 9

                              "Except money is RELATIVE. To REALLY compare, you have to measure it against that area's cost of living to see if that wage really is a living wage or not."

                              Is this a living wage- enough to live on? Or the living wage- made up figure being pushed for by economically illiterate/suicidal?

                              The interesting issue with relative wage/costs is people dont seem to like it unless it is in their favour. There was an article a while ago on the Guardian which was a good laugh as it complained of ethnic cleansing in London. Its problem being that people who cant afford to live there were being moved to where they could afford (or the tax payer could afford).

                              The point I was making of our rich country vs actually poor ones is that even adjusting for costs we are unbelievably rich and yet dont seem to realise it.

                2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                  Re: They invest the money which brings jobs

                  "I just watched a doc today on DV on income disparity that pointed out the increase in wealth of the richest."

                  At some point it stops being about wealth and starts being about using money to keep score.

            2. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: In this respect it is the perfect poster-boy for Free Market Capitalism

              "Wall Street hails the likes of McDonalds for trying to replace serving staff with machines."

              Not for long. Low value franchise manual labour like this isn't going to be replaced quickly - and here's why: Franchisees cut corners.

              Back in the 1980s that resulted in cooking times at several London McDs being shaved down by the franchise holders. Which in turn resulted in a number of cases of serious food poisoning (McD's calculated cooking times are to the second and take account of things like killing bacteria). In the end, after a number of very expensive settlements McDs had to step in and buy out the franchisees.

              The introduction of food handling robots and staff reduction will lead to corner cutting in maintenance - the reason for this is that "idle" staff are actually cleaning and those robots will need cleaning throughout the day to stay hygienic (the cooking tools at McDs are cleaned almost continuously).

              Robot-infested kitchens in the typical franchisee establishment will likely result in roach infestations due to inadequate site cleaning, followed by outbreaks of food poisoning from cross contamination of cooked/uncooked burgers coupled with inadequate cleaning cycles.

              The rate of return on robots doing low value manual work makes them a non-starter for most jobs, unless there's a significant risk of payouts for worker injuries involved (eg, care home staff - where this and a critical shortage of staff has resulted in a lot of R&D into lifting exoskeletons, etc - but that hasn't actually filtered through to the UK yet).

              The low hanging fruit for automation is and continues to be areas where mechanical (wo)men aren't needed - which has been going on for the last 40 years. When was the last time you saw an accounts ledger clerk, etc? What's changing now is that more "intelligent" functions are being taken over, leaving the "supervisor" to sign off or do the fiddly bits on a machine's work instead of stuff done by a meatsack.

              There are going to be roving gangs of unemployed conveyancing lawyers, estate agents, accountants and day traders long before you see hordes of unemployed nurses and carers - which poses a real problem for those people who leave university carrying £100k debts and can only find minimum wage jobs.

              Robots will take over driving because there's a benefit in doing so - humans are lousy, easily distracted drivers. Likewise when operating heavy machinery, etc and they're already taking over farming jobs simply because it's impossible to recruit enough people stupid enough to want to do backbreaking work at shitty pay rates. In other occupations they'll take a while to dominate.

              1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                Re: In this respect it is the perfect poster-boy for Free Market Capitalism

                Why don't they just make robots to maintain the other robots, then? And then operate them in conditions non-conducive to pest life?

              2. codejunky Silver badge

                Re: In this respect it is the perfect poster-boy for Free Market Capitalism

                @ Alan Brown

                "Robot-infested kitchens in the typical franchisee establishment will likely result in roach infestations due to inadequate site cleaning"

                Comparing the cost of a bunch of minimum wage workers vs very few who only need to clean the place sounds a considerable difference. It takes very few cleaning staff to look after a supermarket so how many would be needed to clean a much smaller footprint McDonalds? I imagine there would be saving on building space too as the kitchen probably doesnt need to be as big.

                "which poses a real problem for those people who leave university carrying £100k debts and can only find minimum wage jobs."

                This seems to confuse the problem, who spent the money? University is considered an investment and all investments carry risk etc, and so on. If people have gone for golf course management and cant find anywhere but cleaning a McDonald burger + bun dispenser then what do you propose? We cant guarantee people jobs, certainly not giving them the kind of money you just mentioned.

                Order points are already reducing the staff requirement for many places. Online has made a massive shift from customer service to warehouse worker. The internet has replaced skilled knowledge. It would be harder to replace low wage labour if they stay that way. But with people pushing for unrealistic minimum wages and such the worker is pricing themselves out of the market.

                1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                  Re: In this respect it is the perfect poster-boy for Free Market Capitalism

                  "Order points are already reducing the staff requirement for many places. Online has made a massive shift from customer service to warehouse worker. The internet has replaced skilled knowledge. It would be harder to replace low wage labour if they stay that way. But with people pushing for unrealistic minimum wages and such the worker is pricing themselves out of the market."

                  They seem unrealistic until you figure in the Cost of Living. If you have to work two or three jobs without a day off and STILL can't pay the bills even for a Spartan living, the system is stretching to the breaking point.

        2. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: In this respect it is the perfect poster-boy for Free Market Capitalism

          "Does the 1% then consume itself? Wiping out the bottom 99% of the 1% till only one is left standing with all the money.

          Holy Shit! I've cracked it. The world is just running one huge game of Monopoly!!!"

          I tend to see it more as a gigantic poker tournament. Same principles (big guys pushing the small guys out until there's only one left).

  16. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Devil

    Hubris precedes nemesis

    Just ask Blockbuster.

  17. ratfox Silver badge
    Megaphone

    Poor research

    an industry that has been competitively fragmented and structurally stable

    Rather than "competitively fragmented", I think "local monopolies" is the proper term. E.g The service offered by London black cabs is horrendous. If there had been any proper competition, they'd have gone out of business long ago.

    No one can demonstrate a clear link between specific Uber product features and its meteoric growth

    They have an app which allows you to order a ride in most of the Western world, and they accept credit card payments. I believe just those two advantages over most incumbents are enough to explain their popularity.

    explain why no one else had ever recognized these opportunities

    Because the incumbents were so entrenched that they could afford to sit on their asses, considering the multiple layers of regulation protecting them, and it was so hard for new entrants to get into the market that it took near-organized crime methods to do it.

    or document how they are powerful enough to allow Uber to rapidly drive all incumbent taxi and limo companies out of business.

    As soon as any alternative to the incumbents was created, customers couldn't switch fast enough.

    Uber has broken the laws in many ways, but I for one am really happy that the incumbents got the kick they deserved. And I'm not really worried about Uber becoming a global monopoly, because it's actually easy to replicate the business model. You just need not to suck.

  18. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    The same game since NCR was National Cash Register & Tom Watson Snr did jail time

    NCR did it all.

    Predatory pricing (but only when necessary. The CEO hated to lose money).

    Ignoring patents of small competitors to improve their product.

    Tie bigger competitors up in court if they sued.

    Release shoddy fake copies of competitors goods to destroy their reputation.

    Tomas Watson never saw the inside of a jail cell as the head of IBM.

  19. rh587

    I've never understood the hype over Uber.

    They're a minicab/private hire company with a good app.

    Except they pretend they're not a minicab firm so they can avoid the bother of getting themselves licensed, insured, or checking the qualification/insurance of their drivers.

    I'm no fan of vested interests holding back innovation, but Uber isn't special - they're just the most tech-savvy of private-hire firms, and the various licensing regimes/authorities are catching up with that and holding them to account for their practices and the proper regulation of their drivers.

    The greatest value Uber has had is in nudging the incumbents to embrace tech, forcing competitors to using Lyft or Hailo/myTaxi. This is good, but does not excuse their other shenanigans.

  20. Stuart 22

    Money isn't everything

    My one beef with the analysis is that Uber's fate is it isn't going to be the lowest cost provider and is hence doomed. While low cost is important and it should not be difficult to undercut black cabs profitably using a app peer to peer model even ethically.

    No the success depends on being the BIGGEST. The operator with the most drivers in an area should be able to deliver the fastest pick-up time. That is a considerable competitive advantage only beaten by the minicab operator who has an office outside your station.

    Hence an alternative worldview is that the operators may coalesce into three groups:

    1) Premium taxi-cabs

    2) Network operators (to be battled out by Uber, Lyft et al)

    3) Local minicab firms

    With eventually the charges also being in that order. Given Uber is curently the biggest by far it is in far the best position to monopolise the middle sector unless it shoots itself in the foot. A real risk as last Friday's episode played out. The real argument is just how much of the market is in the middle. I still see them squeezing the other two but not eliminating them. Its also positioning in advance of the autonomous vehicle revolution.

    But then I never use taxis so its merely a spectator sport for me.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Careful what you argue Andrew, you could end up with Google's Johnny Cabs moving in to fill the Uber void and that would really leave you foaming at the keyboard.

  22. Chris Miller

    efficiency doesn't increase in response to competition, or at least not very much

    I can't quantify 'not very much', but one way that Uber improves the efficiency of private hire (while reducing CO2s) is matching up return journeys. When my local private hire chap takes me to Heathrow (or wherever), there's a very good chance that he's coming back home empty. Uber offers the prospect of a paying fare back.

  23. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    For those who think this s**t is new, or started by Microsoft......

    You might like to read this

    Over a 15 year period 158 companies were set up to compete with NCR.

    153 of them were bankrupt by the end of that period and it was estimated NCR held 95% of all US cash register business.

    If you're thinking "Well I guess they just made better products" you have a simple faith in capitalism. *

    *In the special needs sense of the word.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: For those who think this s**t is new, or started by Microsoft......

      What about the remaining five?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's about the money dummy.......

    Interesting article, but the research totally misses the point.

    By far and away the biggest single removable cost item from cabbing (be it Black Cabs, Uberites or Mini Cabs) is the driver.

    If you take some conservative numbers.....

    Let's say London has 105,700 cabbies in total.

    40,000 Uber (Ubers own numbers)

    21,000 Black Cabs (TfL Numbers)

    84,700 Licenced Cab Drivers 2015 (Govt report linked below) subtract the 40,000 Uber = 44,700 (non Uber)

    https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/taxi-and-private-hire-vehicles-statistics-england-2015

    The 'average' London Black Cab makes around £40-50,000pa after tax and costs. Let's take the lower figure of £40,000 and multiply by number of cabs 21,000 = £840m pa. The tax revenue from that is probably in the order of another £400m pa (Income Tax, VAT, Petrol Taxes).

    There's no firm number for Mini Cabs and Uberites, but let's say they make £25,000 per year after expenses and Tax. £25,000 x 84,700 = £2.12Bn the tax revenue from that as per above is say £1bn.

    I realise these numbers are highly subjective and we've all seen the stories of Black cabbies making £90k per year etc....for the purposes of this lets keep number conservative.

    So there's about £3bn of removable costs and the consequential loss of a further about £1bn tax revenues.

    If anyone thinks that Uber isn't trying to dominate the market now, to ensure they get the lions share of £4bn a year flowing to their San Francisco base, while only paying a tiny amount of Corporation Tax, you're not really paying attention.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What has UBER got to hide in a legal appeal?

    TFL declines renewal and UBER says they’re going to mount a legal case. Behind closed doors UBERs got skeletons in its closet. TFL knows this. Once a legal case is mounted those skeletons will find their way into the public domain.

    1. Rob D. Bronze badge

      Re: What has UBER got to hide in a legal appeal?

      A legal appeal isn't a way to hide stuff - the whole point of the legal appeal is that it would be an objective assessment, for both Uber and TfL (and Khan if that matters). You could and probably should also ask the same of TfL because the details behind the TfL rationale will also be quite publicly reviewed in court.

      My guess is still that this never gets to court, especially after Khosh... Khas... er, Uber's new CEO's apology for whatever needed apologising for also gives Khan and TfL a graceful and face-saving exit option to proper discussions.

  26. Sierpinski

    A better description

    "Alan Patrick of Broadsight calls Uber a "labour arbitrage" play. I haven't found a better description."

    Monetized hitchhiking

  27. This post has been deleted by its author

  28. tiggity Silver badge

    Tangentially

    Mr. O throw away line:

    "Few would now argue that having just one mobile phone operator per country would be a good idea."

    Well, if it was service driven - all profit spent on ensuring 100% coverage, good signal, high data rates, then I would be happy.

    But that's mindset for you.(not instantly thinking worts case of a monopoly)

    I think public service mobile single provider would be good (but monopoly price gouging shoddy for the shareholders service would not be - instead in UK we have serveral of them, & its signal lottery or get financial hammering for data roaming. I have 2 sims (different providers) just because so often zero signal on one of them (sadly all too often zero signal on both does happen)

  29. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Former Taxi Licensing bod writing....

    On-demand taxi booking has been available since the invention of the messager boy. Private Hire taxis, with lighter regulation because every booking must go through a booking office and must be recorded and the taxis are banned from plying, has been around since the 1970s. But, in London, only since 1998 and everybody in the chatteratii are oblivious to what happens outside the M25 and through their metropolitan navel-gazing and don't even realise - some can't even *comprehend* - that Private Hire is a thing and think "taxi" means black cab.

    It's like the brain-dead idiots who can't manage to notice the outside world and realise that London has had 8-digit telephone numbers for 20 years, they can't manage to get it into their heads that London has had Private Hire for 20 years. There's some fundamental flaw in their mental processes actively preventing them from noticing the world around them.

  30. A_Melbourne

    QBusters.com.au

    Check out the future of ride-sharing at http://qbusters.com.au/

    Just press on "Simulator" to get a fake login that will enable you to try it out. :)

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