The taxi-hailing app has gone to court in a bid to secure its future in the UK’s biggest market after Transport for London (TfL) ruled last September that it was stripping Uber of its operating licence on the grounds of public safety and security.
Concerns included Uber’s approach to reporting serious criminal offences, how drivers’ medical certificates were obtained, how criminal record checks were carried out and its use of technology which allegedly helped it evade law enforcement officials.
Tom Elvidge, Uber’s general manager in the UK, told Westminster Magistrates Court: “I agree that Uber London Limited (ULL) and Uber generally was undergoing a period of significant change and, in light of what was available to TfL given the mistakes that ULL made, I absolutely accept that decision in September.”
Martin Chamberlain QC, representing TfL, accused Uber of lacking transparency and of “drip feeding incriminating information to its regulator only when it’s squeezed out”.
Mr Elvidge replied: “I think it’s certainly one of the interpretations.
“This was not good enough. It should’ve made multiple responses to further probing and further questioning to get to the ultimate response and that was wrong – that was inadequate.”
Lawyers for Uber have told the chief magistrate in the case that it has “grown up” since last year’s decision – Tom de la Mare arguing it had led to “wholesale change”.
Reforms to its business model include the introduction of 24/7 telephone support and the proactive reporting of serious incidents to police.
It has also changed its senior management and apologised for mistakes.
Mr de la Mare cited three TfL inspections, saying they had showed a “perfect record of compliance” and “change of a business that grew very fast to one that has grown up.”
Chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot will decide whether Uber is “fit and proper” to hold an operator licence in London now, rather than whether TfL’s decision was correct in September.
She has already indicated the 18-month provisional licence Uber is requesting would be “too long” for her to grant.
The company has been able to operate as normal in the city during the appeal process, and the firm could theoretically turn to higher courts if it is not satisfied with the outcome of this week’s hearing.
The taxi app is available in more than 40 towns and cities across the UK and has around 50,000 drivers in Britain, with some 40,000 in London.
The firm has also been stripped of its licences in Brighton and York, but has gained new licences in Sheffield, Cambridge, Nottingham and Leicester.