Uber has been granted a 15-month probationary license in London after receiving a ban last year.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court found that the company is “fit and proper” to hold the licence on Tuesday 26 June, and granted the firm’s appeal after it agreed to an audit.
The company’s future had been in jeopardy after Transport for London found last September that it the firm was not equipped to hold a private hire vehicles operator licence.
During the hearing, the company admitted that the original decision not to renew its five-year licence has been correct. TfL highlighted multiple concerns – including failure to report crimes to the police, failing to conduct proper background checks on drivers and general concerns about public safety and security.
However the firm assured the judge that it has since made changes and cleaned up its act while still operating in London awaiting appeal.
The chief magistrate, Emma Arbuthnot, said Uber should pay all costs of the appeal. TfL’s lawyer said a figure of £425,000 had been agreed.
Uber told the court that after wholesale changes, and the appointment of new management in the UK, it had fully passed TfL’s three latest inspections.
From the reporting of serious incidents and ensuring drivers only operate in areas where they are licensed, the company insists it has made great changes over the past few months.
Uber has around 3.6 million passengers regularly using its service in London.
Speaking after the verdict, Tom Elvidge, general manager of Uber in the UK, said: “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.”
The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I believe everyone must play by the same rules, no matter how big or powerful they are. After years of operating poorly in London, Uber has now accepted that TfL’s action in refusing to renew their licence was totally justified. Today our stance has been vindicated by the court.
But for many women in the city, the coming months will be vital in witnessing these “changes”. Before the company lost its licence, it was accused of multiple failings – particularly failing to help and protect women’s safety.
In May 2016, it was revealed that Uber drivers had been accused of 32 rapes and sex attacks on London passengers over the course of 12 months. That’s one assault every 11 days – almost three times a month.
“Had Uber notified police after the first offence, it would be right to assume that the second would have been prevented,” said Insp Neil Billany, before pointing out that Uber’s policy of logging criminal complaints with TfL instead had prompted “totally unacceptable” delays of up to seven months before they were investigated by officers.
In December 2016, details emerged of an alleged lack of security at Uber which allowed employees to track customers, including ex-girlfriends or spouses. This followed reports that the Uber app collects information on customers’ movements, even after they finish their ride. Even better, the man who was whistle-blowing, Ward Spangenberg, claims he had been fired by the company for raising his concerns.
Only time will tell if Uber truly has made changes, and it has a lot to prove in 15 months.