Uber wins appeal over refusal of London PHV licence, with judge ruling company is now “fit and proper person”

Uber London (ULL) has won its appeal over the decision of Transport for London (TfL) in November 2019 not to renew its London private hire vehicle (PHV) operator’s licence.

In Uber London Limited v Transport for London Deputy Senior District Judge Tanweer Ikram said TfL had invited him to consider whether ULL’s overall track-record of breaches and systems changes was sufficient to give the court confidence that ULL was fit and proper to hold a PHV operator’s licence.

The judge said he had weighed ULL’s record on breaches of regulations and impact on public safety, and had taken into account their number.

“Public confidence in the licensing regime is a clear consideration. Some breaches in themselves are just so serious that their mere occurrence is evidence that the operator is not fit and proper to hold a licence. I do not find this to be one of those cases," he found.

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The judge added that he had:

  • borne in mind the impact of Programme Zero in reducing the occurrence of breaches. Instigated by Uber, this was a scheme that seeks to eliminate regulatory breaches altogether;
  • taken into account improvements in ULL’s Board oversight, including a key new appointment and their understanding of regulatory breaches;
  • taken into account the actions taken;
  • had not found any evidence of concealment or ‘cover up’ on the part of ULL as regards the driver photo fraud issue; and
  • weighed ULL’s record of engagement with TfL “and clear improvements in communication”.

He also noted that a report produced by Cognizant on TfL’s instruction had initially found that ULL’s ITSM [IT Service Management] processes were not to appropriate standard. However, TfL had accepted that there had been subsequent changes and that, now, ‘ULL’s ITSM processes are now of a standard that they would expect of a company in ULL’s position. ULL’s changes have plugged the gaps identified by Cognizant.’

This had been the residual area of concern in terms of systems and processes, Judge Ikram said. “I find it has been adequately addressed.”

The judge concluded that “despite their historical failings”, he found Uber London, “now, to be a fit and proper person to hold a London PHV operator’s licence”.

He said he did, however, wish to hear from the advocates on conditions and on his determination as to the length of a licence. ULL was subsequently granted an 18-month licence subject to certain conditions. It was also ordered to pay TfL's costs of more than £374,000.

Uber has been approached for comment.

A TfL spokesperson said: “We note the Court has found that Uber is now fit and proper to hold a private hire operator’s licence in London. As a result of our decision in November last year Uber has implemented a number of changes to improve passenger safety and address the issues we identified. This 18 month licence with a number of conditions allows us to closely monitor Uber’s adherence to the regulations and to swiftly take action if they fail to meet the required standards.”

The Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, an interested party in the case, described the decision as “a disaster for London”. It added: “Sadly, it seems that Uber is too big to regulate effectively, but too big to fail.”

See also: Uber and the fit and proper person test by Gerald Gouriet QC and Charles Holland, counsel to the LTDA.

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