Uber Has Admitted TfL Was Right Not to Renew its Licence After All

By Tom Pritchard on at

Today is the day Uber and Transport for London are in court, over that situation regarding the whole 'London ban' thing from last year. The hearings have now begun, and in a surprising turn of events the ride-hailing app has admitted TfL was right to strip it of its operating licence after all.

At the time of the ban Uber seemed outraged by the idea that anyone could claim it wasn't "fit and proper" to hold an operating licence as TfL did. It insisted the regulator was more interested in restricting consumer choice rather than supporting the drivers who make a living driving for the company. It then appealed the decision, so it could continue operations in the short term, and began doing all sorts of things to try and bring TfL back on team. Apologising, changing things, improving customer saferty, and so on. The kind of thing you wouldn't do if you really had done nothing wrong.

Now the court has heard that Uber was totally in the wrong and deserved to have its licence taken away. Tom Elvidge, general manager of Uber in the UK, said:

"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."

It's worth noting that Uber itself has undergone huge changes since then, following Dara Khosrowshahi replacing founder Travis Kalanick as CEO at the start of last September. While the change in leadership wasn't enough to stop TfL, it did symbolise a change in Uber's strategy. Kalanick's tenure as CEO was mostly about "whatever, we do whatever we like", while Khosrowshahi was more about fixing the problems caused by his predecessor.

Elvidge claimed in court that TfL's decision "certainly accelerated" the changes made by Uber, in particular reporting drivers who are removed from the app or convicted of a crime. He also admitted that the way regulator-dodging 'Greyball' software was used in the UK was "fundamentally wrong". Similar he said online eye tests for would-be drivers was "not a good idea", and the company's lack of transparency wasn't a good thing:

"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."

This will be going on for the next few days, so we'll bring you more when we have it. [Standard]