Uber claims U-turn as it bids to restore London licence

Uber claims U-turn as it bids to restore London licence
Photo: ANI

London: Uber claimed Monday it had mended its ways as the ride-hailing app started its appeal against being stripped of its licence to operate in London.

Uber agreed it was right that its licence had not been renewed by the city’s transport authority back in September — but said it had since undergone “wholesale change” in response, and the decision should therefore be overturned.

Transport for London (TfL) decided against renewing the US taxi-hailing app’s licence due to several safety concerns.

Uber’s appeal is being heard at Westminster Magistrates Court in London.

“We accept TfL’s decision in September was the right decision on the evidence at the time,” Uber’s lawyer Tom de la Mare told the court.

“That acceptance has led to wholesale change in the way we conduct our business.”

The company has about 40,000 drivers and 3.5 million customers in the British capital.

TfL’s concerns included how Uber obtained drivers’ medical certificates and how criminal record checks were performed.

Uber has said it has made significant reforms such as proactively reporting serious incidents to the police and changing the app so users are told Uber has accepted their booking and their driver is TfL licensed.

Judge Emma Arbuthnot, England’s chief magistrate, will rule on whether Uber is fit and proper to hold a licence now, rather than the merits of TfL’s decision in September.

Uber can continue to operate in London during the appeals process, which could continue in higher courts if either party is unhappy with Arbuthnot’s verdict.

She said that were she to renew Uber’s licence, “18 months would be rather too long”.

The hearings are expected to last until Wednesday, with Arburthnot to announce her decision at a later date.

In a separate case, Uber is also appealing against an employment court ruling that would give its drivers the right to paid holidays and the national minimum wage.

The app has already capped the number of hours its drivers can work in Britain in a bid to increase safety after heavy criticism of its business practices, and will set up a 24/7 telephone helpline for riders and drivers.

The London licence is one of a number of headaches for Uber and its new chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over last August after founder Travis Kalanick was ousted following a series of scandals.

Its self-driving car programme in the United States suffered a blow with a deadly accident.

Uber also faces being banned in Turkey after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said earlier this month that the app was “finished”, following an intense lobbying campaign from Istanbul taxi drivers.