Competition watchdog confirms investigation into Uber takeover of Autocab will run until March 26

Autocab CMA

Uber’s planned takeover of dispatch systems supplier Autocab is to be investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority over concerns about its possible impact on the UK taxi market.

As expected, the CMA will examine whether the deal could result in a “substantial lessening of competition” in the sector. Uber acquired Manchester-based Autocab in August 2020, saying the move would help it connect passengers with local private hire and taxi operators via Autocab’s iGo platform in areas it does not serve.

Outside London, Uber operates in around 40 towns and cities – if it can tap into the Autocab user base, Uber estimates another 170 significant markets will be available to it. As part of the takeover, Uber pledged to keep Autocab independent, with its own staff and management.

The watchdog said in a statement: “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.”

In response, an Uber spokeswoman said: “We are co-operating fully with the UK Competition and Markets 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 has maintained that it is not a competitor with Uber, and the two businesses occupy different spaces in the sector: Uber as a marketplace, and Autocab as a dispatch systems supplier. In August, Autocab stated: “Autocab and Uber are not competitors. The deal will enable Uber and local private hire and taxi operators across the UK to grow through their use of the iGo marketplace. They will be able to access hundreds of thousands of additional trips every month as Uber connects people looking for trips in the app to local firms in areas where Uber does not operate.”

The CMA is seeking comment from the industry until February 12. The watchdog has until March 26 to decide whether it wants to clear the deal, demand actions from the companies, or launch a more in-depth investigation.

To access the consultation, follow this link