Uber wins long-running lawsuit over operating in London
By Karla Adam,
Toby Melville Reuters
LONDON — Uber won a long-running legal battle on Monday that will allow it to continue operating in London, a major victory for the ride-hailing app that has repeatedly clashed with the city’s transport authorities and its traditional cabdrivers.
A judge on Monday said that Uber had overcome “historical failings” and was now a “fit and proper” operator in what is one of its biggest markets outside of the United States. He granted Uber an 18-month license with conditions.
Uber responded to the ruling, saying that it was “pleased” and “as always, safety is our priority as we work together to keep London moving.”
In November 2019, London’s transport authorities said that they would not renew Uber’s license to operate in the British capital after thousands of trips were made with someone other than the booked driver. One of the biggest concerns was that unauthorized drivers could upload their photographs to an authorized driver’s account, allowing them to pick up passengers. London authorities had estimated that at least 14,000 journeys were made this way.
It was the second time in two years that London transport authorities rejected Uber’s license to operate there.
Uber appealed both decisions and was allowed to continue to operate until a final decision was made.
The latest case was heard at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court this month.
In his written verdict, Judge Tanweer Ikram wrote: “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.”
Uber, he said, “does not have a perfect record but it has been an improving picture.” He said that he was “satisfied that they are doing what a reasonable business in their sector could be expected to do, perhaps even more.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who leads Transport for London (TfL), warned that Uber will continue to be scrutinized.
“I can assure Londoners that TfL will continue to closely monitor Uber and will not hesitate to take swift action should they fail to meet the strict standards required to protect passengers,” he said.
The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, a trade body for London’s cab industry, called Monday’s ruling “appalling.”
“Uber has demonstrated time and again that it simply can’t be trusted to put the safety of Londoners, its drivers and other road users above profit,” the group’s statement said. “Sadly, it seems that Uber is too big to regulate effectively, but too big to fail.”
London is one of Uber’s largest European markets. The company has about 45,000 drivers cruising the city’s streets.
In a separate legal battle, Uber is appealing an employment tribunal ruling that found its drivers can be classified as workers and are entitled to workers’ rights, including minimum wage and vacation pay. Uber says its drivers are self-employed independent contractors.
Britain’s Supreme Court heard the case in July and is set to make a decision this year.