Uber wins legal battle against London ban

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Uber has won its legal battle to continue operating in London, as a judge reversed the city’s transport regulator’s ban on the US based ride-hailing app and issued it a new 18-month license.

Last year, for a second time, Transport for London ( TfL) stripped Uber of its license, first refusing to renew Uber’s London license in 2017, citing a “pattern of failures” that put passengers at risk.

A flaw in Uber’s systems allowed unauthorized drivers to upload their images to other driver accounts and fraudulently pick passengers on at least 14,000 trips, the watchdog said. While some of these trips were carried out by unlicensed drivers, others included the creation of Uber accounts for carrying passengers by “dismissed or suspended drivers.”

The judge who heard the case said he had “sufficient confidence” that Uber “no longer poses a public safety risk. Despite their historical failings, I find (Uber), now, to be a fit and proper person to hold a London PHV (private hire vehicle) operator’s license,” the judge said in his judgement.

The new London license for Uber will last 18 months and comes with multiple conditions agreed jointly by Uber and TfL. After the announcement, Uber shares climbed 6 percent in premarket trade.

Jamie Heywood

“This decision is a recognition of Uber’s commitment to safety and we will continue to work constructively with TfL. There is nothing more important than the safety of the people who use the Uber app as we work together to keep London moving.”

Jamie Heywood, Regional General Manager – Europe

Uber tried to minimize the customer safety issues by launching a new technique to check the identity of drivers through a combination of facial recognition and human reviewers in April. The company was still able to operate in London after losing its license because it had appealed the ban.

In Europe, London is by far the largest Uber market. In the UK, the business has aggregated around 3.5 million customers and 45,000 drivers since its 2021 launch there. Uber is the top ride-hailing player in the region, but faces strong competition from several new operators, including India’s Ola, Estonia’s Bolt and Germany’s Free Now.

The ruling eliminates a major uncertainty in Uber of regulation. But around the world, the organization also faces a variety of legal fights. Uber is facing a case in the US that where the drivers are seeking to be reclassified as employees.

A similar case is also being pursued in the Supreme Court in the United Kingdom, where drivers seek to be classified as workers entitled to rights such as a minimum wage and holiday pay. A decision on the same is expected by this year end.

The decision to restore the London license of Uber drew a fierce reaction from the iconic black cab industry of the city, which has always battled over regulation and competitive fares with Uber.