LONDON – Uber scored a major victory on Monday as a judge restored the company's transportation license in London, one of the key global markets where regulators threatened to ban its cars from the streets for safety reasons.
A deputy chief judge, Tan Ikram, said Uber met an "appropriate and reasonable" standard to be eligible for an 18-month license. A ban would have been a major blow to the company, whose hail-shipping has helped reshape urban transportation, but which is now facing growing financial and regulatory challenges around the world. In London, Uber has 45,000 drivers on the road and offers millions of trips every month.
Uber "doesn't have a perfect record, but it was an improving picture," Ikram said in his decision. "I'm pleased that they are doing what can be expected of a reasonable business in their industry, maybe even more."
In the past three years, Uber has received its London operating license twice over safety concerns, only to be allowed to continue operating during the appeal.
The most recent case dates back to November 2019 when Transport for London, the city's traffic inspectorate, revoked Uber's taxi license after declaring it did not meet the “fit and proper” standard required to be a taxi driver. Authorities cited Uber's patterns of wrongdoing, including evidence that unauthorized drivers had carried thousands of drivers.
As in the past when the government reprimanded them, Uber apologized for the wrongdoing and said it made changes to address the issues. The company said it added safety features, including a new driver identification check.
The London traffic inspectorates accepted the judge's decision. The requirement for the 18-month license is the submission of regular safety reports, which, according to Transport for London, would enable the authorities to "keep a close eye on Uber".
Jamie Heywood, Uber's regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, welcomed the verdict.
"This decision is in recognition of Uber's commitment to safety and we will continue to work constructively with TfL," Heywood said in a statement referring to Transport for London. "There is nothing more important than the safety of the people using the Uber app as we work together to keep London moving."
Before the pandemic, Uber had some of its greatest successes in London. His cars are ubiquitous across the city and are an important means of transport for many commuters. However, the growth brought a setback, particularly from the city's traditional black cabs, whose business was hit hardest by Uber. Some Uber drivers have also criticized the company for poor pay and poor performance.
Uber suffered huge financial losses even before the coronavirus caused a sharp drop in journeys, but the pandemic had a crippling effect on Uber's business. In August, the company reported that revenue from its hailboat business was 67 percent lower than a year earlier. The company recorded a net loss of $ 1.8 billion. The share price is still trading below what it sold when it went public, a sign of investor confidence in the company.
Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber's managing director, had taken steps to cut costs by shedding thousands of jobs. And since Uber's hail business has suffered, Mr. Khosrowshahi is focusing more on developing his grocery delivery service, Uber Eats.
London is just one of the biggest regulatory challenges Uber faces. In California, where Uber and its competitors are under legal pressure to classify drivers as employees rather than independent contractors, the company has been considering moving to a franchise business model or withdrawing entirely from the market. In the UK, Uber is also facing a lawsuit that could force it to classify drivers as employees of the company. This is a costly change that would call his business model into question.