Taxi ride-hailing giant Uber won a court appeal in Britain on September 28 to be granted a new licence to operate in London. The US-headquartered app has been operating in London on an interim basis while its appeal was being heard after Transport for London (TfL) had rejected its licence application last year over safety concerns.
Westminster Magistrates' Court heard arguments in the case earlier this month and a judge has now concluded that Uber has taken steps to address the safety issues and is fit to operate on London roads "despite historical failings". "Despite their historical failings, I find them, now, to be a fit and proper person to hold a London PHV (private hire vehicle) operator's licence," said Judge Tan Ikram, in a written judgment.
He said he had taken into account Uber's record "on breaches of regulations and impact on public safety". "Some breaches in themselves are just so serious that their mere occurrence is evidence that the operator is not fit and proper to hold a licence. I do not find this to be one of those cases," he ruled, adding that concerns about the app's systems and processes had now been "adequately addressed".
The judge has directed lawyers in the case to make submissions about what conditions should be attached to Uber's new operating licence and the length of it. TfL originally refused to renew Uber's licence in September 2017, following which the company won a 15-month licence by a judge in June 2018 after taking that case to court.
TfL then rejected the firm's subsequent application based on "several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk", resulting in the latest appeal. One of the main concerns raised by TfL was a flaw in Uber's system that allowed unauthorised people to upload their photographs to legitimate drivers' accounts, which then allowed them to pick up passengers. Uber's regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, Jamie Heywood, said: "It was not what we would do now. It was inadequate, we could have done better."
Business campaign group London First said Monday's decision was "good news for millions of Londoners and visitors who rely on Uber to get around the capital". But the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association, which represents London's licensed black cab drivers, called the decision "a disaster for London."
"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. Sadly, it seems that Uber is too big to regulate effectively, but too big to fail," a spokesperson said. The ruling this week ends uncertainty for around 45,000 drivers who use the taxi app in London.
Meanwhile, Uber is faced with a separate legal battle over whether it should give these drivers basic employment protections, such as minimum wage and holiday pay, as they currently fall under the category of contractors rather than employees.