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Uber’s acquisition of taxi tech firm Autocab faces watchdog investigation

A formal investigation into Uber’s acquisition of UK tech firm Autocab has been launched by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

The investigation comes following the ride-hailing firm’s announcement in August 2020 that it had entered into an agreement to acquire UK technology company Autocab.

Autocab provides private hire and taxi operators with technology to run their business, including booking and dispatch software, and also connects them with trips through their iGo marketplace.

The CMA have now opened up an invitation to comment on the merger which closes on 12 February.

A spokesperson from the CMA wrote via the GOV.UK website: “The CMA is investigating the anticipated acquisition by Uber International B.V., a wholly owned subsidiary of Uber Technologies, Inc., of GPC Computer Software Limited and its subsidiaries (Autocab).”

The statement continued: “The CMA is considering whether it is or may be the case that this transaction, if carried into effect, will result in the creation of a relevant merger situation under the merger provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002 and, if so, whether the creation of that situation may be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the United Kingdom for goods or services."

To assist it with this assessment, the CMA invites comments on the transaction from any interested party.

Bob Nixon, Co-Founder of tech rivals iCabbi, commented on the news via social media saying: “I've been very vocal about my concerns on what the proposed Uber acquisition of Autocab could mean for our industry, some would suggest that I'm being too vocal (including within our business).

“I respect their views, but once this deal is done then there's no going back. My fear is that if we don't speak up and it goes ahead unchecked or with no conditions it will devastate the industry we know and love across the board - from Taxi/Private Hire companies, to drivers, to competition, passenger choice, service etc.

“I have every respect for Autocab as a business and a management team, and despite what they think my views aren't sour grapes or schadenfreude. I'd be delighted or them to take some money off the table, but Uber owning a dispatch technology and potentially being able to access their customers big data is truly frightening to me.

“Following c. 4 months of preliminary investigation the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have announced a formal, statutory investigation into the Uber/Autocab deal.

“This investigation may or may not come to anything, but at a minimum demonstrates that the relevant authorities believe that it merits a deeper look.”

An Uber spokeswoman said: “We are cooperating fully with the UK Competition and Market Authority’s inquiry to ensure it can conclude its review as quickly as possible. We are confident that this acquisition is positive for consumers, will help local operators grow and provide drivers with genuine earning opportunities.”

Autocab have also released a statement today recapping on the key points surrounding the deal. A spokesperson from Autocab listed: “Uber will join a number of demand generators already using the iGo marketplace and will offer incremental work to taxi firms. This will mean additional earning opportunities for your drivers, potentially leading to the need for you to recruit additional drivers to meet this increased demand.

“This incremental work being offered by Uber is entirely opt-in. You remain in control and can chose whether or not you wish to receive work via demand generators on the iGo network, including Uber.

“Private Hire Taxi firms provide a fantastic service to their local community – and the local community is loyal to their favourite taxi firm. Your customers will continue to use your phone number, (Remember 60-70% of all taxi bookings are made over the phone) passenger app, e-booking, Facebook Chatbot and Corporate Accounts Portal to book their trips. Just as with the other demand generators currently providing demand via iGo, the incremental trips Uber are offering will be primarily from out-of-towners visiting the area, corporate travellers visiting on business and national contract work.

“This acquisition centres around Uber and the taxi industry working together. Through this collaboration, Uber can service their existing customers, taxi firms can receive incremental bookings and Autocab can continue to invest in its multi-award-winning technology.

“The terms on offer from Uber will be fair and attractive to Autocab customers. 30 leading UK firms have already signed Memoranda of Understanding with Uber and a further 150+ meetings have been requested with Uber.

“Uber will be investing significantly in the development and international expansion of our SaaS technology, meaning we’ll continue to provide our customers with the best booking and dispatch products available on the market.

“Our customers’ data belongs to our customers, in line with GDPR and data privacy laws. In addition, we have recently updated our terms and conditions to provide added peace of mind for our customers.

“Post-Transaction Uber and Autocab will ensure that your data (and the data of your drivers, passengers and trips) remains protected and, specifically, that Uber obtains no unwarranted access to this data.

“Following the deal close, Autocab will remain a distinct entity within the wider Uber group with its own staff and management, including the current management team. The Autocab team will continue to provide support, customer care and be your single point of contact, now and in the future.”


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