Updated: Jun 6, 2021
“We understand the importance of protecting Autocab’s customers' commercially sensitive data,” says ride-hailing firm Uber as questions over merger continue to be asked.
The comments follow Uber’s purchase of taxi and private hire software firm Autocab following CMA clearance on 14 April.
The deal was completed after the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced that it had cleared Uber’s purchase of Autocab, following a merger investigation.
The CMA opened its Phase 1 merger investigation into ride-hailing company Uber’s acquisition of GPC Software Limited (Autocab) in January 2021. The investigation found Autocab to be a supplier of booking and dispatch technology software (BDT) to taxi companies. Autocab also operates a referral network for taxi and private hire operators called iGo, where those companies can send and receive jobs to each other.
The investigation considered the deal’s possible effect on competition in the supply of BDT, as well as referral networks, and any potential impact of the merger on taxi companies who are Autocab’s current BDT customers. After thorough scrutiny, the CMA has found that there is only limited indirect competition between Uber and Autocab, and the CMA did not find evidence to indicate that Autocab was likely to become a significant and more direct competitor to Uber in the future.
The CMA also considered whether Autocab and Uber could try to put Autocab’s taxi company customers that compete against Uber at a disadvantage by reducing the quality of the BDT software sold to them, or by forcing them to pass on data to Uber. However, the CMA found that there are other credible suppliers of BDT and referral networks that these taxi companies could switch to if Uber were to reduce the quality of the Autocab service or force them to share their data.
Despite the CMA providing the green light for the deal to complete, the taxi and private hire industry has continued to question specifics around the deal.
A spokesperson from Uber said: “Earlier this year Autocab was acquired by Uber, which has led to some questions from within the industry. We want to answer these questions and give Autocab customers the reassurances they deserve.
“When the CMA cleared the acquisition, they concluded that the deal did not give rise to competition law concerns. We agree, and believe it is positive for competition.
“The deal will help cement the place of local operators in their community. Consumers will easily be able to access a local cab, and operators and drivers will have greater earnings opportunities.
“We understand the importance of protecting Autocab’s customers' commercially sensitive data, not only because it is imperative that we are always fully compliant with the UK’s data protection laws, but also because we know that protecting this data is key to our, Autocab and their customers’ success.
“Since launching Local Cab, our new product that allows riders to connect with local operators through the Uber app with Need-A-Cab in Plymouth, they have seen demand for trips increase exponentially. As a result, they are now recruiting drivers. Need-A-Cab is the first of many operators we hope will partner with us over the coming years.
“Hundreds of thousands of people open the Uber app in towns and cities where Uber doesn’t operate and which have great local operators willing and able to serve them. We want to help connect these passengers directly with operators. If you’re an operator looking to expand, get in touch with the Autocab team so you can understand exactly how they can help your business.”
Last month Uber launched the pilot of its new product, ‘Local cab’, which will enable passengers to book a trip with a local taxi company via the Uber app in Plymouth.
The Local cab option will be the first time Autocab’s iGo network has been integrated onto the Uber platform since the two firms reached an acquisition agreement in August 2020.
According to sources, the integration has the potential to now connect passengers with 80,000 private hire and taxi drivers in the UK.
As part of the pilot, anyone opening the Uber app in Plymouth will now see the ‘Local cab’ option which will connect passengers to the taxi firm Need-A-Cab.