Uber Can Continue Operating in London, Judge Rules



LONDON — Uber scored an important victory on Monday when a judge restored the company’s transportation license in London, one of its most important global markets, where regulators had threatened to ban its cars from the road over safety concerns.

A deputy chief magistrate, Tan Ikram, said Uber had met a “fit and proper” standard to receive a license for 18 months. Mr. Ikram said Uber had taken the necessary steps to address regulators’ concerns, including new safety measures to keep unauthorized and uninsured drivers from using its platform to carry passengers.

A ban would have been a major blow for the company whose ride-hailing service helped remake urban transportation but now faces growing financial and regulatory challenges around the globe. In London, Uber has up to 45,000 drivers on the road and provides millions of rides each month, according to information the company submitted to the court.

Uber “does not have a perfect record, but it has been an improving picture,” Mr. Ikram said in his decision. “I am satisfied that they are doing what a reasonable business in their sector could be expected to do, perhaps even more.”

Until the pandemic, Uber had enjoyed some of its greatest success in London. Its cars are ubiquitous around the city and a major mode of transport for many commuters. But its growth brought blowback, particularly from the city’s traditional black cabs whose business has been hurt the most by Uber. Some drivers for Uber have also criticized the company for poor pay and lack of benefits.

Uber was facing major financial losses even before the coronavirus led to a major decline in rides, but the pandemic has had a crippling effect on Uber’s business. In August, the company reported that revenue from its ride-hailing business had fallen 67 percent from a year earlier. The company posted a net loss of $1.8 billion. Its stock price still trades below what was sold at its initial public offering, a sign of investors’ lack of confidence in the company. (Following the court decision, Uber’s shares jumped more than 8 percent in premarket trading before settling about 4 percent higher.)

Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s chief executive, had taken steps to reduce costs by cutting thousands of jobs. And as Uber’s ride-hailing business has suffered, Mr. Khosrowshahi is focusing more on developing its food-delivery service, Uber Eats.

London is just one of the major regulatory challenges Uber is facing. In California, where Uber and rivals are under legal pressure to reclassify drivers as workers rather than independent contractors, the company has considered shifting to a franchise business model, or pulling out of the market altogether. In Britain, Uber is also facing a lawsuit that could force it to classify drivers as company employees, a costly change that would throw its business model into question.



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