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Uber gets back its London license after winning court challenge

The Uber app on a mobile phone in central London
The Uber app on a mobile phone in central London.
(Will Oliver / EPA-EFE/REX/Shutters)

Uber can keep operating in London after the ride-hailing company won a court appeal on Monday against transportation regulators’ refusal to renew its license.

The U.S. company had challenged Transport for London’s decision in late 2019 not to renew its private hire vehicle operating license over safety concerns involving impostor drivers.

“Despite their historical failings, I find them, now, to be a fit and proper person to hold a London PHV operator’s license,” Deputy Chief Magistrate Tanweer Ikram wrote in his decision.

However, he said he wanted to hear from lawyers for both sides before deciding how long Uber’s license should be valid and under what conditions it should operate.

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Uber was allowed to continue operating while the appeal was underway. The decision came after a four-day hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court earlier this month.

Transport for London had decided in 2019 to reject Uber’s application for a new license, citing several breaches that placed passengers at risk. The regulator noted, among other things, that unauthorized drivers were able to carry out thousands of rides by uploading their photos to other drivers’ accounts.

Uber’s threat to leave California is just a bully’s move. The state should call its bluff.

The magistrate said he took into account Uber’s efforts to improve oversight and didn’t find any evidence of a coverup of the driver photo fraud problem.

Transport for London had revoked Uber’s license once before, in 2017, but a court later granted it a license lasting 15 months, which TFL then extended for two more months in late 2019, but with 20 added conditions.

The legal victory in a lucrative European market should help Uber as it struggles to turn a profit. The company posted a $1.8-billion loss in the latest quarter, raising doubts that it can meet its goal of becoming profitable by 2021.


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