Uber allowed to operate in London again after judge overturns ban

Key Points
  • Uber was granted a 15-month license to operate in London, with some broad conditions.
  • The ride-hailing firm will have to provide regulators with the results of an independent review into procedure and safety every six months.
Uber granted 15-month license to operate in London

Uber can continue operating in London after a judge overturned a ban in the U.K. capital on Tuesday.

Uber was granted a 15-month license, with some broad conditions. The ride-hailing firm will have to provide regulators with the results of an independent review into procedure and safety every six months. It will also have to update UK regulators about any relevant changes to company policy or governance.

The regulatory agency Transport for London (TFL) accused Uber last year of showing a "lack of corporate responsibility" in relation to "public safety and security," and failed to renew a license that would allow the U.S. ride-hailing service to operate in London. Uber had been allowed to continue its business in London while it appealed last October's ban.

At the end of a two-day hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Judge Emma Arbuthnot ruled Tuesday that Uber could operate in one of its most important cities. A shorter, 15-month license would allow Uber and the regulatory agency to "test out the new arrangements,” Arbuthnot said after the ruling.

London is one of Uber's most crucial markets. More than 3.6 million people in London regularly use the Uber app, and around 45,000 drivers use the service.

A phone displays the Uber ride-hailing app on September 22, 2017 in London, England. Uber is appealing Transport for London's decision not to renew its operating license.
Leon Neal | Getty Images

“We are pleased with today’s decision. We will continue to work with TfL to address their concerns and earn their trust, while providing the best possible service for our customers," Tom Elvidge, general manager for Uber in the UK, said in a statement.

Through the hearing, Uber was accepting of its past mistakes. The ride-hailing app’s lawyer said that TFL’s 2017 ruling pushed the company to make changes.

These included reporting serious incidents to the police rather than leaving it up to riders and drivers to do so. In January, it introduced a mandatory six-hour safety break for drivers after 10 hours of work.

The judge ruled Tuesday that Uber must provide training for drivers, complicating the company's stance that drivers are contract workers and not employees. Uber will have 48 hours to report and deal with safety complaints about its drivers, and it will have to notify authorities whether a driver is being kicked off the platform.

In the decision, the judge praised Uber's efforts to change corporate culture, noting CEO Dara Khosrowshahi met with directors for the TfL in October of 2017 and apologized for past corporate behavior, which included trying to cover up a data breach in 2016.

Khosrowshahi took over the reigns last year from founder Travis Kalanick, whose leadership was fraught with scandals involving allegations of sexism and bullying. Khosrowshahi has been cleaning up the company, focusing particularly on rider experience and workers' rights.

He told CNBC in a recent interview that Uber is on track to go public next year.

—CNBC's Kate Fazzini and Lora Kolodny contributed to this report.