Uber in London: judge considers 'probationary' licence

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Ride-hailing service could face review process if it is granted licence to continue operating

Uber app on a mobile phone

Uber says it has made ‘wholesale’ reforms since being told it would lose its London licence in September.
Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

A judge is considering whether to give Uber a “probationary” operating licence in London after the taxi-hailing app was punished over safety concerns.

The chief magistrate, Emma Arbuthnot, has retired to rule on whether the company is “fit and proper” to hold the permit in the capital in an appeal over Transport for London’s (TfL) refusal.

The Silicon Valley company told Westminster magistrates court it had made “serious mistakes” and that TfL was correct in its September decision, but argued it had made “wholesale” reforms in the following nine months.

Uber was asking for a five-year licence when TfL rejected the application, but on Tuesday told the hearing it would accept one for a 15-month “probationary” period with the restrictions agreed with TfL.

Helen Chapman, TfL’s licensing, regulation and charging director, said Uber’s behaviour over reporting allegations to police was “very disturbing” and criticised the firm’s previous attitude towards regulation.

“I think we have had five years of a very difficult relationship where Uber has felt they haven’t required regulation and being operated in the same way as everybody else we regulate,” she said.

But she said the new protocol with police “could, if applied correctly, enhance public safety”.

But Gerald Gouriet QC, representing the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, warned that an “Uber in sheep’s clothing” had appeared before the court.

The judge said she believed Uber should cover the price of the case, saying: “It seems to me Uber has brought the whole thing on themselves and should pay the costs.”

Uber has been able to continue operating in the capital while the appeal process was under way.

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