LONDON - London's municipal transportation authority took commuters by surprise Friday when it rejected Uber's application for a new license to operate, ruling that the ride-sharing company is not a "fit and proper" private car-hire operator.
The ubiquitous car share service has experienced explosive growth in dense and sprawling London, where an estimated 40,000 Uber drivers prowl the streets waiting for a click from the 3.5 million residents who have downloaded the app.
Uber is especially popular because its rates are far below those of London's famous black cabs. A ride from Heathrow Airport to the city might cost $50 in an Uber and more than $100 in a black cab.
Uber's current license expires at the end of September, but the company has 21 days to appeal and can continue to operate until there is another ruling.
Transport for London, the governing authority, said that it rejected the application to renew the license because "Uber's approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility" by not reporting serious criminal offenses, obtaining medical certificates, or running background checks on the drivers.
Uber was defiant. The company said in a statement that the decision shows "the world that, far from being open, London is closed to innovative companies."
"To defend the livelihoods of all those drivers, and the consumer choice of millions of Londoners who use our app, we intend to immediately challenge this in the courts," Uber said.