Uber Wins Court Battle to Continue Operating in London
Uber expanded its reach in the city in August with the launch of Uber Boat.
After a long legal battle with local regulators, Uber has won the right to continue operating in London — one of the ride-sharing company’s largest markets. The win came on Monday, Sept. 28, when Westminster Magistrates’ Court deemed Uber a “fit and proper” operator, “despite historical failings.”
According to The Points Guy, Uber’s legal issues in the English capital began three years ago after Transport for London (TfL) first rejected its license application. Last year, safety concerns resurfaced amid security issues with the app, and regulators in the capital turned down Uber’s license renewal again.
This second denial of Uber’s licensing occurred in November 2019 due to regulators’ concern with unauthorized drivers using the app to pick up customers. Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard the security issue allowed 24 drivers to share their accounts with 20 others, leading to 14,788 rides.
Uber claimed to have fixed the problem, but TfL still declined its license renewal application in order to ensure that there were no other software issues. Uber appealed the decision, and has been permitted to continue operating while awaiting a judge’s final decision. During that time, the company actually expanded its reach in London with the August launch of its Uber Boat service, using Thames Clippers boats to transport passengers down the Thames River.
In the end, the Westminster Magistrates’ Court ruled in the app company’s favor. 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 newly granted license is valid for 18 months. As part of the deal, Uber must continue following TfL regulations and allow regulators to monitor the company’s adherence to these guidelines.
The Licensed Taxi Driver’s Association, which has long criticized Uber’s operations in London, disagreed with the decision. “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 association said in a statement. “Sadly, it seems that Uber is too big to regulate effectively but too big to fail.”
Uber currently has 3.5 million riders and 45,000 licensed drivers in London, according to Jamie Heywood, its regional general manager.