Uber Squeaks Back into London, Again
Service gets a third chance to redeem itself in a top European market
Ride-hailing giant Uber is back in business in London, but with short-term permit and another long list of operating conditions.
A London magistrate has deemed Uber “fit and proper” to resume operations—but only for the next 18 months.
Still, it’s a glimmer of good news for a company that has been booted out of the British capital twice for what the courts described as a cavalier attitude about vetting drivers and ensuring passenger safety.
The drama began in early 2017. That’s when the city’s transport authority, Transportation for London, yanked Uber’s five-year operating license. TfL cited the company’s lack of corporate responsibility, notably its weak background checks on drivers and failure to report major criminal offenses by drivers against passengers.
Promising reforms, Uber was given a new 15-month license in 2018 that was extended for two months in 2019. But TfL wasn’t impressed with the company’s improvements. Last November, the agency declined to grant another extension, pointing to a “pattern of failures” that continued to put passengers at risk.
This time around, the judge found Uber’s witnesses “credible” and acknowledged that the company’s behavior, although still imperfect, is improving, Bloomberg News reports.
Now Uber is on regulatory probation. TfL, citing the company’s “serious historical breaches,” vows to keep a close watch on the company and is poised to yank its permit again.
TfL says Uber must clean up lingering driver issues over photo IDs and insurance fraud. Without further gains, one legal expert tells Bloomberg, “Uber is likely to find itself back in court.”
Uber’s woes delight London’s Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Assn., whose members pilot the city’s legendary “black cabs.” The association considers Uber’s very presence “a disaster” for London and would prefer to see the company—and its competition—disappear permanently.
Uber is determined to hang on in London, which is one of its most lucrative European cities. But time is running out for the company to shape up.
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