Uber is getting its license back in London

Uber will get a 15-month license to operate in London.
Uber will get a 15-month license to operate in London.
Image: Reuters/Eddie Keogh
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Uber will get its license back in London after a six-months appeals process.

A magistrates’ court in London found the ride-hailing company “fit and proper” to receive a probationary 15-month license, instead of the five-year license it initially applied for. The court granted the license after Uber agreed to be audited, and to pay £425,500 in costs to Transport for London (TfL), the local transit authority.

Tom Elvidge, Uber’s general manager for the UK, said the company was pleased with the 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,” he said in a statement.

Uber lost its license to operate in London at the end of September 2017. TfL denied Uber’s application to renew, taking issue with Uber’s “approach” to various aspects of doing business, including reporting crimes, vetting drivers, and explaining away software that had helped it conceal illegal operations from law enforcement.

TfL revoked Uber’s license a month after Dara Khosrowshahi took over as chief executive, but he inherited the mess from cofounder and previous CEO Travis Kalanick, and spent months pledging to “make things right.” The decision was a double blow to Uber because it came in late 2017 as the company was finally starting to turn a corner, after months of scrutiny for its toxic culture, alleged sexual harassment, board infighting, and departures of top executives.

Crucially, Uber never actually stopped operating in London, as it was allowed to continue service until any appeals processes were exhausted. The company’s campaign for reinstatement in London included circulating petitions to users and emphasizing to regulators that it had changed its tune, plus a personal visit from Khosrowshahi. Uber says it has 3.6 million riders in London, where it is a popular alternative to the pricey black cabs.

Uber said in court yesterday (June 25) that it “fully accepts that TfL’s decision was justified” and has since “acknowledged and apologized” for past mistakes and “made far-reaching changes to address them.”

The Financial Times reported earlier that Uber had agreed to be audited for six months if it were granted a new license in London. The company also agreed not to employ senior managers who knew about its software that evaded regulators, and would do more to report violent incidents involving drivers to the police.

Other changes Uber made in recent months as it fought for reinstatement in London included appointing three non-executive directors to its UK boards, introducing insurance coverage for UK and European drivers, and limiting the number of consecutive hours its drivers could work.