Uber Gets Boost in Bid to Keep London License
A commuter uses the Uber app on a smartphone. (Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg)

Uber Gets Boost in Bid to Keep London License

Regulators signaled they would take a neutral stance on a new London license for Uber Technologies Inc., offering a route for the ride hailing firm to continue to operate in its biggest European market.

The London transport authority plans to leave the final decision to a judge, an attorney for Uber said in a filing for a court hearing Friday. The decision essentially mirrors the process through which Uber was given a 15-month license two years ago.

“The question whether, in the light of the changes made by Uber London since the decision, it is now a fit and proper person, is one for the court,” Tim Ward, a lawyer for Uber said in the filing, noting that he was summarizing the regulator’s view.

Uber’s disclosure came ahead of a trial to challenge Transport for London’s decision to strip the company of its operating license. The regulator said last year that the firm had failed to adequately verify drivers’ identities and safeguard the service for passengers.

Uber said that “there is nothing more important than the safety of the riders and drivers” who use its app.

“We have worked hard to address TfL’s concerns over the last few months, including rolling out real time ID checks for drivers,” the San Francisco-based company said in a statement.

TfL declined to immediately comment after the hearing.

But TfL’s apparent change of heart doesn’t mean that Uber will get a free ride. Traditional taxi drivers will hotly contest any attempt to keep Uber on the road.

In its own court filing today, the London Taxi Drivers’ Association said it wanted to explore “more critically” than TfL the reasons for Uber’s “many breaches of license” conditions.

In the London trial, scheduled to start next month, Uber will have to prove to the court that it’s not a repeat offender, after the judge previously criticized the “gung-ho attitude” of the previous management team.

The TfL pivot is a boost for Uber as it continues to counter a host of legal problems in the U.K. and U.S.

In San Francisco last week, the company’s former chief security officer, Joseph Sullivan, was charged with covering up a 2016 data breach that compromised the personal information of 57 million drivers and users.

And in both countries, Uber faces lawsuits over whether it should give more benefits to drivers, threatening its business model.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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