Uber wins court battle to continue operating in London

Sep 28, 2020

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Uber has won its long-lasting legal battle with London regulators. On Monday, Westminster Magistrates’ Court said that it deemed Uber a “fit and proper” operator, “despite historical failings”, meaning the ride-hailing company can continue operating in one of its largest markets.

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The win for Uber comes three years after Transport for London (TfL) first rejected its licence application. Last year, safety concerns surfaced again in which regulators in the capital turned down Uber’s licence renewal.

In November 2019, regulators refused to renew Uber’s licence because of a security concern with unauthorised drivers using the app to pick up customers. Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that the security concern allowed 24 drivers to share their accounts with 20 others, leading to 14,788 rides.

Uber insisted that it had fixed the problem, but regulators declined to renew Uber’s licence in order to make sure there weren’t other software issues. Uber appealed that November decision, and during the time since has been permitted to continue operating.

Uber “does not have a perfect record but it has been an improving picture”, the judge said. “The test as to whether [Uber] are a ‘fit and proper person’ does not require perfection. I am satisfied that they are doing what a reasonable business in their sector could be expected to do, perhaps even more”.

The new licence is valid for 18 months, and will require that Uber continues to adhere to TfL’s conditions, including allowing the organisation to monitor that Uber’s adhering to regulations.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said that historically, TfL was “absolutely right” not to renew Uber’s licence last year, however, the company had “made improvements”.

Uber’s issues in London started in September 2017 when regulators originally refused to renew the ride-hailing company’s licence. Uber then won a 15-month licence in June 2018, which was extended by two months in September 2019. However, TfL decided not to grant a new licence entirely, a decision that Uber appealed, and as of Monday, won.

“Uber has demonstrated time and time again that it simply can’t be trusted to put the safety of Londoners, its drivers and other road users above profit”, the Licensed Taxi Driver’s Association said. “Sadly, it seems that Uber is too big to regulate effectively but too big to fail”.

According to Uber, it has 3.5 million riders and 45,000 licensed drivers in London.

During its appeal process, Uber continued operating — and expanding — in London. In August, the company launched its Uber Boat service, using Thames Clippers boats to transport passengers down the Thames.

Featured photo by Tim Robberts/Getty Images.

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