'No matter how big or powerful you are, you must play by the rules.'
When we heard that Uber had lost its license to operate in London, our hearts plummeted as we started plotting out dreaded night tube/bus routes and putting money aside for the inevitable black cab. Well, Transport for London and Uber have finally come to a compromise after a lengthy battle which just wrapped up in a two day hearing at Westminster.
The ride sharing app initially had its licence revoked after TfL deemed that it was not doing enough to ensure ‘passenger safety’ and was not ‘fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence’. While Uber has faced issues around the world with licensing, losing London would have been a huge blow. According to The Evening Standard, over 3.5 million people use the app and 40,000 Uber drivers form their network in the capital alone.
TfL’s prior choice not to renew their licence boiled down to their approach to ‘passenger safety’, which they said has demonstrated ‘a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications’.
They specifically pinpointed the methods by which Uber reports ‘serious criminal offences’, obtains medical certificates as well as their dealings with the Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service – a government body which prevents ‘unsuitable people from working with vulnerable groups, including children’ according to their website. According to The Times, Uber has investigated more than 2,500 of its London drivers for cases related to sexual assault, stalking and dangerous driving.
Uber was also slammed for their use of Greyball – technology that essentially blocks the British government from accessing the full breadth of their data and app, which prevents them from ‘undertaking regulatory or law enforcement duties’.
After appealing the decision at Westminster, Uber was told that their licence would be renewed – but only for a probationary fifteen months to begin with. While Uber initially wanted the licence to be renewed for five years, it accepted the decision and said during the hearing that they had ‘made far-reaching changes to address [their past mistakes]’.
In addition to the ruling, it was deemed that Uber would also have to cover TfL’s court costs which amount to £425,000.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said of the decision on Twitter, ‘Uber remains strictly on probation, and @TfL will monitor it closely. No matter how big or powerful you are, you must play by the rules.’
Tom Elvidge, General Manager of Uber in the UK, told Marie Claire, ‘We are pleased with today’s decision. We will continue to work with TfL to address their concerns and earn their trust, while providing the best possible service for our customers.’
Uber had a rocky start in the UK and particularly in London, where many black cab drivers protested its arrival – most notably back in February 2016 when roughly 8000 drivers parked their vehicles and blocked Whitehall, Westminster and West End roads for hours. They have also been scrutinised globally for other major issues such as background checks for their drivers as well as passenger safety – earlier this year, they faced Indian court after a woman raped by her Uber driver sued them for allegedly obtaining her medical records to colour her claims.