Plan Insurance Blog

Uber's appeal successful: licence renewed for 15 months in London

Uber’s appeal against TfL’s decision not to renew their private hire operator licence in the Capital has been successful. A magistrate has ruled to overturn the original ban.

Transport for London decided in September 2017 not to renew Uber’s licence. The regulator determined that the self-proclaimed app company was not a “fit and proper” operator.

15 months to prove themselves

Following the outcome of the court hearing on the 26th June 2018, the American firm has only been issued with a 15 month licence. Most private hire companies would apply for a 5 year licence period.
Uber had been seeking a five-year licence when it was refused last year. However, due to their poor track record and dubious past practices, the ride-hailing company took the decision to apply for only an 18 month licence. Even that was shortened to 15 months by the Court. The reduced duration is being viewed as a temporary trial in which Uber can demonstrate a new attitude towards regulations and improved governance.
After the two day long hearing at Westminister Magistrates’ Court, Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot declared that Uber, in the Court’s opinion, was now considered “fit and proper”.
The company was ordered to pay TfL’s legal fees that approached nearly half a million pounds.

Poor Track Record

Several of Uber’s operating practices were mentioned in TfL’s explanation as to why the regulator decided not to renew the licence last year. Perhaps the most serious related to public safety. Issues were raised as to how the company reported the crime. Incidents involving Uber drivers or ones that occur during journeys they facilitate are now being reported straight to the police instead of a criminal complaint being logged with TfL. This process caused worrying delays. Transport for London also highlighted problems with the way drivers checks were conducted and medical certificates obtained.
In a recent blog, “Uber’s charm offensive knows no bounds“, we highlighted the full-on charm offensive that Uber had been conducting following the rejection of their re-licence application. Measures including efforts at geo-fencing to prevent cross border hiring, dropping their objection to the English language test and a new openness to sharing anonymised data regarding trips.

The Mayor

The company has successfully convinced the powers that be that is has made “wholesale” alterations to its mindset in the last 9 months. However, if the post verdict comments are to be believed, they will have little margin for error.
Sadiq Khan, London’s mayor commented that,

“After years of operating poorly in London, Uber has now accepted that TfL’s action in refusing to renew their licence was totally justified. Today our stance has been vindicated by the court.
“Uber has been put on probation – their 15 month licence has a clear set of conditions that TfL will thoroughly monitor and enforce.”

Uber’s Reaction

Uber’s UK General Manager Tom Elvidge said he was pleased with today’s decision:

“We will continue to work with TfL to address their concerns and earn their trust, while providing the best possible service for our customers.”

Elvidge’s sentiments will no doubt be echoed by the estimated 40,000 registered drivers the firm has on its books. However, the London black cab trade will be less than impressed with the verdict.

We anticipate the issue of “e-hailing” – being tantamount to “plying for hire” – will return to the forefront of their objections in the not too distant future. A modernised definition of “plying for hire” that takes into account the impact of technology is long overdue. A successful defence on this basis could have equally serious implications for the American firm’s business model as their licence rejection originally poised