Why Uber is in court again

Ride-hailing platform fighting to restore London licence

Uber london
Uber employs around 40,000 drivers in London alone
(Image credit: Leon Neal / Getty Images)

Uber has begun a legal battle to secure its right to operate in London, nine months after Transport for London (TfL) refused to renew the firm’s licence.

The hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, which is expected to last for several days, will determine the taxi app’s future in the UK.

Why did Uber lose its licence?

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TfL announced in September 2017 that it would not be renewing Uber’s operating licence, explaining its reasons for the decision in a 21-page letter.

Despite the decision, the platform has been allowed to continue operating as normal while it pursues a legal appeal.

Major issues highlighted by TfL include passenger safety, working conditions for the firm’s growing army of self-employed drivers, and a lack of transparency about how the platform operates.

Speaking in court today, representatives for the app “conceded a string of failings”, ITV News reports.

However, they argued that the company has since made “wholesale” reforms to address the concerns and is now in “fit and proper” condition to have its operating licence restored.

For instance, Uber now reports criminal complaints regarding its service directly to the police. “Previously it had logged criminal complaints with Transport for London, which caused delays,” says the BBC.

What is at stake?

Besides the obvious implications for London’s 3.5 million Uber users and 40,000 drivers, “the case has big ramifications because London basically represents Uber's entire business in the UK”, says Business Insider.

The ride-hailing app currently operates in more than 40 UK towns and cities, including Birmingham, Glasgow, Leicester and Sheffield, but losing its massive London user base would almost certainly prompt a major rethink about the feasibility of remaining in the UK.

In a sign of its eagerness to avoid such a scenario, Uber has suggested that TfL could agree to issue the company an 18-month licence rather than the usual five-year permit.

If the court rejects its appeal, the company could turn to higher courts, a process that London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said could take years.

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