Uber Official Offers Mea Culpa in Plea for London License

The head of Uber Technologies Inc.’s U.K. unit admitted that the company made mistakes as he urged a London judge to renew the ride-sharing app’s license to operate in the city.

Jamie Heywood, Uber’s manager for Northern & Eastern Europe, offered a mea culpa for its past regulatory breaches as he testified in front of a judge who will decide whether to give the company another chance.

“We have made mistakes and sometimes fallen short of the standards we set ourselves and of our regulatory obligations,” Heywood said in a statement to the court Wednesday.

Last year, Transport for London yanked Uber’s license to operate in the capital over safety concerns. But the company’s cars were allowed to continue to pick up riders during the court review.

Heywood said he’s “deeply disappointed that any of these breaches took place” and recognizes that TfL’s letter which laid out why it decided to revoke its license “was right” to point out mistakes.

This is the second time in two years that Uber has come to the court hat in hand after a tussle with the regulator.

Following a similar process, Uber was granted a 15-month license by the court in 2018, far less than its previous five-year permit.

Like in the first case, TfL awkwardly dropped its opposition to a new license and instead asked the court to make a decision. London is a key market for Uber and one of its biggest. The city’s iconic black-cab drivers are still contesting Uber’s request for a new license.

Job Cuts

Heywood also detailed the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Uber’s business this year. The company wrote to TfL on August 18 to inform the regulator it had cut around 30% of jobs in the U.K. as a result.

“The past few months have been hugely challenging, as demand for trips through the Uber app has fallen dramatically and challenges are faced throughout the business, as well as by the drivers themselves,” Heywood said.

Uber first announced global job cuts in May after Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi said it would focus on its core mobility and delivery platforms.

On Tuesday, Uber was accused of attempting to hide the fraudulent use of photo identification by some drivers from the regulator. While Uber said it “emphatically rejected” the allegation, which was made by the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, Heywood apologized for its “inadequate” communication of the issue to TfL.

“We could have done better,” Heywood said.

TfL said it’s “still a matter of serious concern” that fraudsters were able to manipulate Uber’s systems “with comparative ease and avoid detection for a significant period of time.”

A ruling on the case could come as soon as Friday, but is more likely to be released early next week. Uber would be able to continue operating even if it loses while it appeals the decision, a process that can take years.

The London case is one of a number of legal battles ensnaring Uber around the world. In both the U.K. and California, the company faces lawsuits seeking to give drivers expanded employment rights that could wreck Uber’s gig-economy business model.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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