LONDON (AFP) — Uber on Monday won a London court appeal, allowing the US ride-hailing giant to operate in the British capital for the next 18 months, after a judge ruled it was a “fit and proper” firm despite safety concerns.
The company, which has 3.5 million customers and 45,000 drivers in the British capital, has now overturned Transport for London’s (TfL) refusal to renew its operating license around the issue of unauthorized drivers.
The San Francisco-based firm was permitted to continue operating in London during the appeal process.
Despite pointing to Uber’s “historical failings”, judge Tan Ikram on Monday said Uber was “a fit and proper person” to hold a private hire vehicle operator’s licence in the capital.
He noted that Uber had sought to explain how breaches had taken place and how they would be remedied.
Jamie Heywood, Uber’s general manager for northern and eastern Europe, said Monday’s decision was a recognition of the company’s “commitment to safety”.
Heywood admitted that Uber’s behavior over the problem of unauthorized drivers had been wrong.
“It was not what we would do now. It was inadequate, we could have done better,” he said.
– Safety is paramount –
TfL, which is chaired by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, acknowledged Monday that Uber had implemented a number of changes to improve passenger safety.
“Public safety is paramount, so TfL was absolutely right not to renew Uber’s license last November after identifying failures that directly put passengers in danger,” said Khan in response to the news.
“I am pleased that Uber have admitted that their response to very real concerns about passenger safety was inadequate, and since then Uber has made improvements.
“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.”
The transport authority had argued in November that some Uber trips across London had taken place with unlicensed, suspended or dismissed drivers.
And it contended that there was a “pattern of failures”, including the use of unauthorized drivers on other Uber drivers’ accounts, allowing them to pick up passengers.
In court, the judge said Uber had tightened up review processes over issues of document and insurance fraud.
– ‘Not perfect but improving’ –
“Uber does not have a perfect record but it has been an improving picture,” Ikram added.
“The test as to whether Uber are a ‘fit and proper person’ does not require perfection.
“I am satisfied that they are doing what a reasonable business in their sector could be expected to do, perhaps even more,” the judge said.
Uber’s London operation has suffered previous license suspensions in addition to protests from the capital’s traditional black cab drivers.
Monday’s decision was meanwhile slammed by an industry group representing those black cab drivers.
“The judge himself has recognized that Uber has more to do, noting that (Uber) is ‘not perfect’ but ‘improving’ and has ‘reduced incidents’,” the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) said in a statement.
“He is playing Russian roulette with the safety of Londoners and I fear it’s only a matter of time until the next incident.”
by Roland Jackson
© Agence France-Presse