Uber wins 18-month license to operate in London

Despite "historic failings," a judge ruled that Uber is a "fit and proper" company and should be allowed to operate in the capital

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Uber has secured the rights to operate in England’s capital city after losing its license last year. After winning its appeal, Uber was granted an 18-month license on Monday. A judge ruled that the company is now “fit and proper” and should be allowed to operate in London.

Last year, Uber lost its operating license in London when Transport for London (TfL) revoked it due to safety concerns. One of the main reasons was a flaw in the ride-hailing giant’s operating systems that allowed unauthorized drivers to upload their photos to authorized drivers’ accounts, meaning they could pick up customers as if they were the booked driver. This happened in “at least 14,000 trips,” which TfL said put passengers safety and security at risk.

At the time, TfL released a statement that said: 

TfL has identified a pattern of failures by the company including several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk. Despite addressing some of these issues, TfL does not have confidence that similar issues will not reoccur in the future, which has led it to conclude that the company is not fit and proper at this time.

In Monday’s hearing, the judge acknowledged Uber’s “historic failings,” but said he is, “satisfied that they are doing what a reasonable business in their sector could be expected to do, perhaps even more.”

Uber won a license to operate in London in 2018, before it was revoked. The company was able to operate in the city during the appeals process recently.

The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association publicly protested the move today on Twitter. “Today’s decision is a disaster for London,” it wrote in its official statement on the matter. “Uber has demonstrated time and time again that it simply cannot be trusted to put the safety of Londoners, its drivers, and other road users above profit.” 

The LTDA went on to say that Uber has effectively “pulled the wool over the eyes of the Court” by admitting its past wrongdoings and that, by granting Uber an operating license, the judge is “setting a very low bar” for a company that “cannot be trusted to disclose serious incidents and…has consistently failed to do the right thing.”

Uber’s regional general manager, Jamie Heywood, said: “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.”