Breakingviews: Uber’s Contrite Stance in London May Hint at a Fruitful New Path

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Taxi drivers protesting in London last year over what they said was an unfair advantage that Uber enjoyed in the British capital.

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Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

“Move fast and break things” may have been Facebook’s mantra, but few companies have taken the slogan to heart like Uber Technologies. The ride-hailing company, which not long ago was valued at nearly $70 billion, has pushed aggressively into one market after another.

In London, watchdogs are now pushing back, and the Silicon Valley invader is finally seeking permission to continue operating, rather than asking for after-the-fact forgiveness for breaking rules.

Dara Khosrowshahi only recently took over as chief executive from Travis Kalanick, an Uber founder who was forced out of the top job for allowing, with an insufficiently vigilant board, a frat-boy culture to permeate the rapidly growing company.

With Uber’s reputation tarnished and its valuation in danger of falling, Mr. Khosrowshahi came into the job on a damage-limitation mission. That was even before London’s transportation regulator, Transport for London, dropped its bombshell last week, declining to renew the company’s license to operate in the British capital.

Many Londoners are up in arms. A “Save Your Uber” petition begun by the company — a tactic that previously helped reverse regulators’ decisions in London and New York — has attracted nearly 800,000 signatures.

Aside from valuing the usefulness and cost-effectiveness of the service, some Uber users fear that Transport for London’s decision suggests that London isn’t as open for business as it likes to appear, especially with the so-called Brexit looming. Yet officials elsewhere have shown themselves even less accommodating. Uber executives were arrested in France, for example. And rules mostly exist for a reason.

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