We can’t afford to let vested interests risk future prosperity

Since it achieved global popularity, Uber has been something of the poster child for disruptive change and creative destruction. Through providing consumers with efficient, convenient, and often cheaper lifts than traditional taxis, the company has managed to showcase the many benefits of innovation and competition.

In doing so, however, it has attracted the ire of those it has displaced. Traditional taxi drivers, understandably threatened by the competitiveness of Uber, have frequently protested against the app and called for greater restrictions – or outright bans – to protect their livelihoods. 

Back in 2017, the protectionists, unfortunately, seemed to get their way, with Transport for London (TfL) revoking Uber’s licence to operate within the city. A few months later, the licence was reinstated, albeit only for a fifteen-month probationary period. Far from an ideal solution, but certainly better than the original decision of TfL to deny over three million uber-using Londoners the choice of cheap and convenient travel. 

Yet this tug-of-war between protectionism and free choice continues to rage on, with the United Cabbies Group, a union of London taxi drivers, challenging the decision to grant this fifteen-month licence. However, just last week, this challenge was dismissed and described as “tenuous” by judges.

Clearly, this is a small victory. But while it’s refreshing to see courts side with consumer choice over protectionism, the future of Uber in London remains troublingly uncertain. 

After all, the ride-sharing firm continues to operate on its probationary licence, with no guarantee of what will happen once those fifteen months are up. This is not to be defeatist – I doubt that the app will simply be banned once this period ends. But the fact that the debate over whether Uber should be allowed to operate persists gives a rather pessimistic impression that we do not yet embrace disruptive change as much as we should.

Let’s not forget, for example, that Uber is just a single example of such innovation and creative destruction in a long history of the old giving way to the new. Arguing to restrict Uber in favour of traditional taxi firms is no different from banning Netflix to protect Blockbuster. 

Take a look at the Belgian capital of Brussels, for instance. Last month, Uber was banned from operating in the city after the Brussels Taxi Association claimed unfair competition, arguing that, since Uber drivers did not have to meet the same requirements on “dress, presentation, and conduct”, as the association’s members do, the competition was unfair. 

Naturally, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be wondering why the Brussels Taxi Association didn’t just advise its members to reduce some of these requirements, rather than deciding to make the leap and campaign for the competition to be banned. The whole point of competition is that businesses should adapt to improve in the face of new entrants to the market, rather than trying to ban them.

The important, and unfortunate, point here is that the association won, and the courts ruled for Uber to be banned from the city. 

A debate is currently ongoing in Brussels over whether Uber should be banned in its entirety, or whether only specific services like UberPOP should be prohibited, while UberX continues to operate. Legal confusion aside, the Belgian example paints a picture of paternalism – only narrowly avoided in London – where established interests fight to simply ban competitors rather than improving their own services.

So, while rejecting the challenge of the United Cabbies Group was a good start, more needs to be done to protect innovative services like Uber in Britain. These innovators drive economies forward, make services cheaper and more convenient, and pass on benefits to consumers.

Lawmakers in the UK should take the recent ruling as a first step towards ensuring that disruptors can flourish in modern Britain – and guaranteeing Uber its future in London must be a priority. In these economically uncertain times, Britain needs to banish protectionism once and for all and embrace its dynamic, innovative spirit.

‘It’s embarrassing’: Advocates say we’ve waited long enough for ride-hailing

NEWS 1130: David Clement with the Consumer Choice Center says he suspects ride-hailing hasn’t already been approved in B.C. because the government is under pressure to protect the status quo.

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About David Clement

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center and is based out of Oakville, Ontario.

David holds a BA in Political Science and a MA in International Relations from Wilfrid Laurier University. Previously, David was the Research Assistant to the Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights.

David has been regularly featured on the CBC, Global News, The Toronto Star and various other major Canadian news outlets.

Consumer advocate suggests failure to approve ride hailing in B.C. risks public safety

NEWS 1130: The North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center, David Clement, says the use of companies like Uber and Lyft helped significantly reduce drunk driving in the United States.

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About David Clement

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center and is based out of Oakville, Ontario.

David holds a BA in Political Science and a MA in International Relations from Wilfrid Laurier University. Previously, David was the Research Assistant to the Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights.

David has been regularly featured on the CBC, Global News, The Toronto Star and various other major Canadian news outlets.

‘I’m horrified’: reaction pours in to Greyhound service cancellations

NEWS 1130: The Consumer Choice Center’s David Clement is echoing Christian’s statements, calling for Uber and Lyft to finally be allowed in the province.

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About David Clement

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center and is based out of Oakville, Ontario.

David holds a BA in Political Science and a MA in International Relations from Wilfrid Laurier University. Previously, David was the Research Assistant to the Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights.

David has been regularly featured on the CBC, Global News, The Toronto Star and various other major Canadian news outlets.

World No Tobacco Day 2018, here’s why you should switch to e-cigarettes

HINDUSTAN TIMES:  Jeff Stier, a senior fellow with the pro-e-cigarettes advocacy group Consumer Choice Center (CCC) said, “The ACS took a step in the right direction by recognising this important harm-reduction method.”

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About Jeff Stier

Jeff Stier is a Senior Fellow at the Consumer Choice Center.

Mr. Stier has been a frequent guest on CNBC, and has addressed health policy on CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, as well as network newscasts. He is a guest on over 100 radio shows a year, including on NPR and top-rated major market shows in cities including Boston, Philadelphia, and Sacramento, plus syndicated regional broadcasts.

Jeff’s op-eds have been published in top outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, Forbes, The Washington Examiner, and National Review Online.

C’est la régulation qui nuit aux chauffeurs de taxis, pas la concurrence

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About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium.

Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish.

He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).

He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

Οι οδηγοί ταξί κινδυνεύουν από τις ρυθμίσεις, όχι από την καινοτομία

LIBERAL.GR: Taxi drivers are at risk from regulation, not from innovation, writers Bill Wirtz of the Consumer Choice Center.

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About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium.

Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish.

He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).

He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

Governments are cracking down on Uber because they don’t understand it

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About Ryan Khurana

Ryan Khurana is a Research Fellow at the Consumer Choice Center and at the Institute of Research in Economic and Fiscal Issues. He investigates the economics of technology, especially the impacts of the "gig economy" and Artificial Intelligence. His writings have been featured in CapX, The Huffington Post, and Rare, among others.

Stripping Uber of its license is harmful to Londoners

SPEAK FREELY: This TfL decision, by reducing choice, is not only anti-competitive, but anti-consumer, anti-worker, and anti-innovation. They have made a costly mistake in what is meant to be an open and forward thinking city.

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About Ryan Khurana

Ryan Khurana is a Research Fellow at the Consumer Choice Center and at the Institute of Research in Economic and Fiscal Issues. He investigates the economics of technology, especially the impacts of the "gig economy" and Artificial Intelligence. His writings have been featured in CapX, The Huffington Post, and Rare, among others.