Uber shares soar as London court gives license go-ahead
Uber’s shares rose more than 10% at one point on Monday in premarket trading after the ride-hailing firm won the right to continue operating in London.
Uber has for years been in a tussle with Transport for London (TfL), the British capital’s transport regulator. It had its license withdrawn in 2017, over issues such as insufficient background checks for drivers, a failure to report serious criminal offenses, and its use of underhanded tactics when dealing with regulators. Uber won an appeal against that decision, but in late 2019 TfL again declined to renew its license over “a pattern of failures.”
The company appealed again and was able to continue operating while the appeal was ongoing. And on Monday it won, with the Westminster Magistrates Court granting it its license to operate in London.
In his ruling, Judge Tan Ikram said Uber, which claims to have over 45,000 drivers in the city, was now “fit and proper” to hold a London private-hire vehicle operator’s license “despite their historical failings.” He said Uber had addressed outstanding areas of concern, such as its driver vetting and its communications with TfL.
“There is nothing more important than the safety of the riders, drivers and the cities we serve,” Uber said in a blog post celebrating the decision. “Over the past four years we have rolled out a number of new in-app features, strengthening our systems and processes and partnering with safety organisations on important campaigns.”
However, the London Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA)—a long-standing opponent of Uber—was less welcoming.
“Today’s decision is a disaster for London,” it said in a statement. “Uber has demonstrated time and time again that it simply can’t be trusted to put the safety of Londoners, its drivers, and other road users above profit.”
A key problem that TfL had identified was that of drivers doctoring the documents and identifying photos that they gave Uber in order to use the platform. As the LTDA complained after Monday’s judgment came down, Uber’s own witnesses had admitted the problem was not escalated internally soon enough, and Uber had given TfL the impression that the issue had been addressed when it had not.
However, Ikram concluded, Uber had not attempted a cover-up.
In a statement shared with Fortune, TfL backed that up, saying, “We note the Court has found that Uber is now fit and proper to hold a private hire operator’s licence in London,” it said. “As a result of our decision in November last year Uber has implemented a number of changes to improve passenger safety and address the issues we identified. This 18 month licence with a number of conditions allows us to closely monitor Uber’s adherence to the regulations and to swiftly take action if they fail to meet the required standards.”