UPDATED, Sept. 28, 2020: Uber has been granted an 18-month license to operate in London, Bloomberg reports, following "historical failings" that prompted London's November 2019 ban on the company. Those failings included inabilities to verify drivers' identities and protect passengers, according to Bloomberg.
Uber is now "fit and proper" to hold a permit, according to Deputy Chief Magistrate Tan Ikram, who said the city recognizes Uber's new commitments to safety. Transport for London said it would keep a close eye on Uber to "swiftly take action" if the company again fails to meet the city's standards.
Uber shares rose 3.9% on Monday morning during pre-market trading, Bloomberg reports, though not everyone is benefiting from this news. The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, who greatly supported the November decision to ban Uber from London, said in a statement that this ruling is a "disaster for London."
- The City of London has pulled Uber's license to operate in the city over what it calls a "pattern of failures" that "placed passengers and their safety at risk."
- According to Transport for London (TfL), a breach to Uber's systems allowed unauthorized drivers to upload their photos to other driver accounts; at least 14,000 trips were taken with drivers who had used the loophole to falsify their information. Elsewhere, TfL says dismissed or suspended drivers were allowed to create a new account to drive passengers.
- Uber said it plans to appeal the decision, and cars will continue to operate in London while that process goes through. Jamie Heywood, the company’s regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, said in a statement the decision is "extraordinary and wrong" and that the company is "setting the standard on safety."
TfL’s decision is the latest in a years-long battle with the ride-hailing company; Uber previously had its license renewal rejected by the city in September 2017.
A British court gave the company a 15-month probationary license, which was then extended by two months in September. While TfL said in a statement that Uber had taken positive steps forward, the continued breaches "highlight the potential safety risk to passengers of weak systems and processes." The agency added that it "currently does not have confidence that Uber has a robust system for protecting passenger safety, while managing changes to its app."
The decision will not have an immediate impact, as Uber will continue to operate (it has 21 days to appeal the decision). However, a license suspension, even a temporary one, could have significant implications — both for the company and for its users in the notoriously congested city.
London is Uber's largest European market, with 3.5 million riders and 45,000 licensed drivers. The company had also pushed out some of its new mobility-focused innovations in the city, like the addition of transit information to its app. It had also publicly called for more public investment in transit in Europe.
"We have fundamentally changed our business over the last two years and are setting the standard on safety. TfL found us to be a fit and proper operator just two months ago, and we continue to go above and beyond," said Heywood. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said on Twitter that the decision "is just wrong."
We understand we're held to a high bar, as we should be. But this TfL decision is just wrong. Over the last 2 years we have fundamentally changed how we operate in London. We have come very far — and we will keep going, for the millions of drivers and riders who rely on us.— dara khosrowshahi (@dkhos) November 25, 2019
The decision could send a signal to other cities that have recently begun to look more skeptically at Uber and other ride-hailing companies. As regulations tighten in cities like New York, where licenses for Uber have been capped, officials will no doubt watch the fallout in London to see how riders and the company reacts.