Uber Heads to Court in Attempt to Regain London Operating License

Uber claims it’s a changed company.

byStephen Edelstein|
Car Tech photo

Uber lost its license to operate in London last year, but the ride-hailing company is heading to court June 25 in order to prove that it is fit to operate in the British capital. Judge Emma Arbuthnot of Westminster Magistrates' Court will hear the arguments and decide whether to reinstate Uber's license.

Transport for London (TfL), the city's transportation agency, declined to renew Uber's license when it came up for renewal in September 2017. Officials cited concerns with the way Uber reported crimes committed by its drivers, as well as the company's background-check policy and its alleged use of software called "Greyball" to circumvent regulators in the United States.

Uber quickly moved to appeal the decision, and its roughly 45,000 London drivers can continue giving rides to a claimed 3.6 million users in the British capital while the appeals process is ongoing. During the past few months, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has apologized to London residents, and met personally with TfL officials in February to discuss the situation. Uber has also proactively reported a series of incidents involving its drivers to the police.

Uber's lawyer Thomas de la Mare said in court that the company has undergone "a wholesale change in the way we conduct business," reports Forbes.

Khosrowshahi took over as CEO from Travis Kalanick in September 2017, and is still cleaning up inherited messes. A series of scandals not only led to Kalanick's ouster, but also depressed the valuation of the company from a high of $68 billion in 2016 to $48 billion when SoftBank invested in December 2017. With Uber rumored to be planning an Initial Public Offering, Khosrowshahi needs to continue working to rebuild the company's public image.

But the London license dispute likely won't get a quick solution. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said the process could take years. If Uber doesn't like Judge Arbuthnot's decision, it could appeal it and drag out the legal proceedings. Uber faces a tough regulatory environment in the U.K., but the importance of that market to the company's bottom line means it will likely continue to fight to stay.