Yesterday Uber made its first appearance in court, as part of what was expected to be long appeal over the state of its operating licence in London - or lack thereof. Then the company surprised pretty much everyone by admitting TfL was right to deny it a new licence, especially since it "accelerated" changes within the company. Now the judge has retired to mull over her decision, and whether she should give Uber a "probationary" operating licence for the capital.
Uber had been seeking a five year licence when TfL rejected its application back in September, a move that effectively 'banned' the raid-hailing service from operating within London. Following the start of the appeal, which granted Uber the right to continue ferrying people around until everything was over, the company had instead requested an 18 month licence. Now it's agreed to accept a 15-month probationary licence, with restrictions agreed upon by TfL. So chief magistrate, Emma Arbuthnot has retired to rule whether the company really is "fit and proper" to operate within the capital.
It was also revealed in court that, from TfL's perspective, Uber didn't act as though it had to follow the same rules as everyone else. TfL licensing, regulation and charging director Helen Chapman critcised the company's former attitude to regulation, saying:
“I think we have had five years of a very difficult relationship where Uber has felt they haven’t required regulation and being operated in the same way as everybody else we regulate."
She also referred to Uber's behaviour over reporting criminal allegations to police as "very disturbing", though admitted new policies "could, if applied correctly, enhance public safety”.
Meanwhile Gerald Gouriet QC, who represents the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, claimed that an "Uber in sheep's clothing" had appeared in court before. Though, considering who he represents, he is going to say things like that. Taxi drivers don't really seem to like Uber for a variety of reasons. The judge also said that Uber should be covering the cost of the appeals case, saying, “It seems to me Uber has brought the whole thing on themselves and should pay the costs.”
The appeal was originally expected to take several days before concluding, but it seems we might be done in two. Assuming the judge is able to reach a verdict. Still, if she rules against Uber the company isn't likely to walk away. There are several other stages of appeal it can take advantage of before the case is truly lost. Once she's made a decision, we'll bring you that news as soon as we can. [Guardian]