Uber secured its London future in a landmark court case — but the mayor warned he would scrutinize the taxi service and take ‘swift action’ if needed

A black-cab driver on London Bridge during a protest against TfL and Uber. Kirsty O’Connor – PA Images / Getty Images
  • Mayor Sadiq Khan of London on Monday responded to a court victory by Uber by saying he would keep a close eye on the company to ensure it’s meeting safety requirements.
  • Uber won an appeal against the regulator Transport for London in court Monday and will now be issued a new operating licence.
  • Transport for London revoked Uber’s licence last year for a second time after what it described as “a pattern of failures” that put the safety of passengers at risk.
  • But the court ruled Uber was “fit and proper” to operate in the city.
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Uber has won a court battle in London that secures its right to operate in the city.

Following the news of the judgment, which upheld Uber’s appeal against a ban by the transport regulator Transport for London, Mayor Sadiq Khan said he would continue to “closely monitor” Uber and take “swift action” if necessary.

Rather than focusing on the result of the court hearing, Khan said that TfL had been right to cancel Uber’s licence last November and said he was “pleased” that Uber had “admitted their response to very real concerns about passenger safety was inadequate.”

TfL revoked Uber’s licence in November for the second time after it said drivers were using fake identities to pick up passengers. The taxi-hailing app went to court on September 14 to appeal against TfL’s decision.

Uber was “fit and proper” to operate in the city, Deputy Chief Magistrate Tan Ikram said at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

Ikram said Uber had “plugged the gaps” in its IT systems that led to safety risks, while improving communication and engagement with TfL.

“Public confidence in the licensing regime is a clear consideration,” he said. “Some breaches in themselves are just so serious that their mere occurrence is evidence that the operator is not fit and proper to hold a licence. I do not find this to be one of those cases.”

TfL and Uber will now negotiate a licence.

Jamie Heywood, Uber’s regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, said the decision was “a recognition of Uber’s commitment to safety and will continue to work constructively with TfL,” adding that “there is nothing more important than the safety of the people who use the Uber app.”

London is one of Uber’s biggest markets worldwide, with 3.5 million users and 45,000 drivers in the city.

New selfie verification for drivers

In the court case, Uber argued that its new selfie verification system introduced in April, which checks a driver’s identity before the driver collects a passenger, addressed TfL’s concerns that thousands of drivers were using fake identities to pick up passengers.

Uber first lost its licence in September 2017 when TfL said the taxi app was not “fit and proper,” but it won back a temporary London licence in June 2018 for 15 months after it changed its UK executives and introduced new safety features in the app.

TfL decided to strip away Uber’s London licence again in November 2019 after identifying “several breaches” that it said “placed passengers and their safety at risk.” More than 14,000 unauthorised people had uploaded fake identities onto approved Uber drivers’ accounts and were picking up passengers using vehicles they weren’t registered to drive, TfL said.

TfL said it also found that some drivers didn’t have the right insurance and that others who had been suspended from the Uber app were creating second accounts to get back on the roads again.

TfL said in a statement in November that Uber had made “a number of positive changes and improvements to its culture, leadership and systems” since its licence was revoked — but those changes weren’t enough.

Uber was still allowed to operate in London despite having no licence because it decided to appeal the ban.