Uber Seeks More London Talks as It Appeals License Ban
(Bloomberg) -- Uber Technologies Inc., the world’s largest startup, appealed a London regulator’s decision to revoke the car service’s license as it seeks more settlement talks.
Uber, which can continue to operate during the legal process, was banned by Transport for London on Sept. 22 over safety concerns and the company’s attempts to avoid regulation. The appeal, which could drag on for months, was filed at Westminster Magistrate’s Court Friday, the company said.
“We hope to continue having constructive discussions with Transport for London,” Uber said in an emailed statement. “We are determined to make things right.”
The license talks in London is just one of a range of issue Uber is currently battling. The company faces at least five criminal probes from the U.S. Justice Department, ranging from issues including possible bribes, illicit software, questionable pricing schemes and theft of a competitor’s intellectual property.
The U.K. capital’s authorities said the San Francisco-based company hasn’t properly reported crimes or done adequate background checks on drivers, concluding the firm doesn’t pass the "fit and proper" test to operate.
The appeal allows the company’s drivers to continue operating in London while the talks are continuing with TfL. The first hearing in the case is not likely to take place until mid-December, and further appeals could extend the process for months, or even years.
Under its new CEO, Uber has been trying to distance itself from its headstrong approach to expansion, led by co-founder and former Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick. Executives have been keen to flag the company’s new conciliatory approach, with new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi flying to London to smooth relations with transport regulators.
The U.K. is its largest European market outside its American base, and a petition launched by the ride-sharing app to protest TfL’s decision has gathered more than 800,000 signatures.
"Our main concern right now is with the welfare of the 40,000 drivers who work for Uber in London and have effectively been given less than one month’s notice of redundancy with no remedy," Jason Moyer-Lee, general secretary of the IWGB trade union whose also suing Uber of worker rights, said in an email. "We want to see a resolution to this issue which provides for these drivers’ job security. "
Uber is also facing challenges around the world over its classification of drivers as contractors rather than full-time employees. On Monday the company said it’s suspending the UberPop service in Oslo, and expressed its intent to conform to local regulation.
"We haven’t always gotten this right, and we’ve learned the hard way that we must change as a company in order to serve the millions of riders and drivers who rely on us," Uber said in a statement regarding its Norwegian suspension.
It remains to be seen whether regulators will be swayed. London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Thursday that he "welcomed the apology from the global CEO of Uber" and that he was pleased Khosrowshahi had "performed a u-turn."
It is difficult to gauge Uber’s true profitability in the U.K. capital. While Uber London is the operating company for the city, actual commissions from drivers are routed to a Dutch holding company -- Uber International BV. Net sales for Uber International BV for 2016 increased to $1.62 billion from $519.8 million, according to company documents filed in the Netherlands.