Uber files appeal against loss of London licence

Uber has registered an appeal against Transport for London’s ruling not to renew the ride-sharing firm’s licence in the capital. 

Representatives from Uber handed in the appeal papers to Westminster magistrates’ court, officially beginning a process that will see the company fight to continue its operations across London.

An Uber spokesperson downplayed the appeal, emphasising ongoing talks with TfL about its licence, or lack thereof: “While we have today filed our appeal so that Londoners can continue using our app, we hope to continue having constructive discussions with Transport for London. As our new CEO has said, we are determined to make things right.”

According to a judicial office spokesman, a hearing is likely to place on 11 December.

TfL refused to renew Uber’s licence last month, citing “public safety and security implications”. The company launched a petition asking for support from customers and Uber’s CEO wrote an open letter, published in the Evening Standard, apologising for the company’s mistakes. 

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In the letter, Dara Khosrowshahi wrote: “While Uber has revolutionised the way people move in our cities around the world, it’s equally true we’ve got things wrong along the way. On behalf of everyone at Uber globally, I apologise for the mistakes we’ve made.

“We will appeal this decision on behalf of millions of Londoners, but we do so with the knowledge that we must also change. As Uber’s new CEO, it is my job to help Uber write its next chapter.

“We won’t be perfect but we will listen to you; we will look to be long-term partners with the cities we serve; and we will run our business with humility, integrity and passion.”

Ahead of today’s filing, Khosrowshahi met with transport commissioner Mike Brown to discuss the ban and the upcoming appeal. 

When does Uber stop in London?

Uber’s current licence expired on 30 September and TfL said it revoked it after concluding Uber “is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence”.

In a statement posted to Twitter, TfL explained that Uber’s approach and conduct “demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility”. It went on to list four points, including Uber’s failure to report serious criminal offences, its approach to medical certificates and its approach to how Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are obtained.

The last point noted Uber’s use of the Greyball software in London, which TfL claims can be used to block regulatory bodies from gaining full access to the Uber app, and therefore prevent officials from undertaking law enforcement duties. Uber has denied these claims. 

During an interview with Radio 4’s Today programme, the Mayor of London also accused Uber of bringing “unfair pressure” onto Transport for London following the decision, accusing it of bringing the full might of its PR to weigh against the ruling.

“What you can’t do, is have a situation where unfair pressure is brought on a quasi-judicial body where there are officials working incredibly hard,” Khan said. “I appreciate Uber has an army of PR experts, I appreciate Uber has an army of lawyers – they’ve also made aggressive threats about taking us to court.”

The news came as a huge blow to Uber, which has been beset by problems over the past few months. Those seemed to culminate in June with the resignation of its founder Travis Kalanick, although the decision by a major city to strip Uber of its licence marked a new low point for the company.

Uber had a total of 21 days to appeal from the day the decision was made, and the service will be able to continue until that deadline has passed and the appeal process has been exhausted. 

In a statement, issued by Khan immediately after the decision was published, the mayor said: “I fully support TfL’s decision – it would be wrong if TfL continued to license Uber if there is any way that this could pose a threat to Londoners’ safety and security.”

“By wanting to ban our app from the capital, Transport for London and the Mayor have caved into a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice,” Tom Elvidge, general manager of Uber in London, responded. “If this decision stands, it will put more than 40,000 licensed drivers out of work and deprive Londoners of a convenient and affordable form of transport.”

Elvidge went on to claim that Uber has “always followed” TfL rules on reporting serious incidents and that an independent review from the company has found that the greyball software “has never been used or considered in the UK for the purposes cited by TfL”.

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“This ban would show the world that, far from being open, London is closed to innovative companies who bring choice to consumers,” the statement reads.

Uber petition

Elvidge additionally launched a petition to save Uber. The petition is being hosted on Change.org and, at the time of writing, has more than 854,000 supporters. Uber emailed a link to the petition to all of its users, too. 

In July, Italian authorities banned Uber from advertising and operating in the country due to what was deemed “unfair competition” to taxi services. That decision was quickly overturned by an Italian court, however, after Uber appealed the decision. In response, the Italian government pledged to introduce clearer rules for competition between taxis and ride-sharing services before the end of the year. 

Also in July, a report by head of the RSA thinktank, Matthew Taylor, called for a new category of “dependent contractors” to be created, in response to the business models of firms such as Uber and Deliveroo.

“There are too many people at work who are treated like cogs in a machine rather than being human beings, and there are too many people who don’t see a route from their current job to progress and earn more and do better,” Taylor told the BBC at the time.

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