Uber wins court appeal over London ban

Ride-hailing app lost licence last year over TfL's concerns about driver safety

Caitlin Morrison
Tuesday 26 June 2018 18:13
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Protesters march against Uber in London

Uber has won its appeal to overturn a ban on its London operation, after TfL revoked its licence last year.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court found that the company is now “fit and proper” to hold the licence, and granted the firm’s appeal after it agreed to an audit.

Uber requested an 18-month licence but was granted a probationary 15-month licence as opposed to the five year licence it previously sought. It has also agreed to pay TfL’s costs of £425,500.

The ride-hailing app was stripped of its licence in September 2017, with TfL citing “public security and safety implications” following numerous complaints the company was failing to properly screen the backgrounds of its drivers.

Uber immediately announced plans to appeal the decision, and the firm was permitted to continue operating as usual throughout the process, which could carry on for several more stages after the current hearing. The appeal process began in December last year.

On Monday, Uber told the court that it “fully accepts that [TfL’s] decision was justified” and said the company has “since acknowledged and apologised for their past mistakes and made far-reaching changes to address them”.

The company, which serves 3.6 million customers in London, said it had recognised that changes were necessary and “started to embark on a programme of cultural and governance change, led by the appointment of a new global CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi” before its London licence was revoked.

Since then, the firm said, it has “changed its senior leadership; strengthened its governance arrangements; clarified and secured its relations with other companies in the Uber group; updated and improved its policies in a wide range of areas; and is taking steps to transform its corporate culture”.

After the verdict was delivered on Tuesday, Uber UK’s general manager Tom Elvidge said: “We are pleased with today’s decision. We will continue to work with TfL to address their concerns and earn their trust, while providing the best possible service for our customers.”

Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, said: “We’re disappointed that the court has sided with Uber and the firm has been given an 15-month licence to operate in London.

“Uber’s blatant disregard for TfL’s regulations and public safety was laid before the court. When TfL’s lawyers grilled Uber on its handling of the 2016 data breach and its shocking failure to report sexual assaults to the police, Uber just blamed its tainted past on its former leadership.

“The justice system has failed Londoners today and let an aggressive multinational corporation win. Uber is not a fit and proper operator and the LTDA will be consulting its lawyers as to how we can hold it to account and keep streets safe for Londoners.”

London mayor Sadiq Khan said the court’s decision showed that nobody is exempt from the rules “no matter how powerful and how big you are ... After years of operating poorly in London, Uber has now accepted that TfL’s action in refusing to renew their licence was totally justified. Today our stance has been vindicated by the court.”

James Farrar from the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain said the decision would come as a relief to its members “whose livelihoods were put at risk by gross mismanagement at Uber”. He added: “However, workers will be disappointed that Uber’s continued refusal to obey UK employment law and its laissez faire approach to workplace violence against drivers was not considered by TfL when challenging the company's fitness to hold a public licence. Both TfL and Uber need to do much better in future."

Meanwhile, Andy Batty, European regional manager for Uber rival myTaxi, warned: “The eyes of the world will be on Uber to ensure they uphold the commitments they made today.”

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