The San Francisco based ride hailing app Uber was shut down in London last September by the city’s transport authority TfL for being a safety hazard to the public. The company’s request for license renewal was denied on the grounds that it wasn’t a ‘fit and proper’ operator.
After fighting a long legal battle in Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Uber was finally granted a 15-month license to operate in London while it is still on probation. Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot also ordered the ride-sharing giant to cover TfL’s legal fees worth £425,000.
Uber Granted Short-Term License
On Monday Uber admitted in court that it had made mistakes but insisted that the company has learned from its shortcomings and worked on improving its services in order to meet TfL’s requirements. Uber faced the Transport of London in Westminster Magistrates’ Court to challenge the transportation authority’s decision to revoke the company’s license in London last year. In September, 2017, the court ruled that Uber was unfit to operate in its biggest European market, bringing a serious blow to the company’s revenues.
London isn’t the first place where Uber has received severe backlash for not performing background checks on drivers. It faces numerous bans and protests in other parts of the world as well for disrupting the taxi business. In September, TfL took serious action against the ride-hailing company for exacerbating criminal activities in London. The transport authority said that Uber had failed to perform adequate background checks on drivers’ which led to serious criminal offenses.
The new ruling which allows the company to operate in London through a short-term license is a test for the court to determine if Uber has really changed like it says it has. The ride hailing giant has been placed on a 15-month probation during the ongoing appeal in the court, although Tom Elvidge, the General Manager for Uber UK, says that the decision is a huge victory for the firm.
Learning from Past Mistakes
Dara Khosrowshahi, who was appointed as Uber’s CEO only a month before TfL’s decision last year has promised his investors that he will fix the situation in London by introducing new security measures including a 24/7 emergency helpline as well as regular reporting of criminal activities to the authorities. Khosrowshahi has also made changes to the senior management of the company to avoid similar issues in the future.
Uber admitted in court that its failure to ensure public safety led to TfL’s decision to shut down the app in London. The company’s lawyer Thomas de la Mare said, ‘the decision was right, we accept it.’ He added that they had already addressed the transport authority’s concerns and were willing to work with TfL in the future to improve transportation safety in London.
Elvidge admitted that the company had failed to communicate with TfL accurately and efficiently at times but all of that has changed now that it has adopted new policies and made changes to its management. Elvidge credited new CEO Khosrowshahi for changing the company culture after the previous chief executive of Uber, Travis Kalanick, stepped down due to intense pressure from investors following a number of scandals which were affecting the company’s reputation.
A Shift in Uber’s Culture
Laurel Powers-Freeling, says that she also noticed a shift in culture after the former banking CEO was appointed as the Uber’s first British Chairman. Powers-Freeling, who has been working for the company since November, says that a number of improvements to the systems under Khosrowshahi’s leadership.
TfL’s licensing regulation director, Helen Chapman, argued in the court that, keeping Uber’s past conduct in mind, it would be best if the company were awarded a shorter license of 15 months – plenty of time for the ride-sharing giant to prove to the regulators that it has really changed.
Chapman says that TfL has had a very difficult relationship with Uber over the past five years during which it has resisted regulations and failed to report criminal incidents in a timely manner. The transport authority said that it often had to find out about issues through the media instead of the company itself.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London says that Uber is not above the law, and all firms, no matter how big or small, need to play by the same rules.
The ride-sharing app currently has over 45,000 drivers and 3.6 million active users in London, making the city its biggest European market.