Uber Marketing

Uber wins back London licence following TfL battle as it continues on road to brand recovery


By Rebecca Stewart, Trends Editor

June 26, 2018 | 4 min read

Uber will continue to operate in London for at least the next 15 months, having won a court bid to get its licence back in the captial, albeit temporarily.

uber tfl license

UK courts have deemed the taxi-hailing firm "fit and proper" to be granted a temporary London licence

The taxi app suffered a major blow late last year after Transport for London (TfL) made the decision to decline its private hire permit.

London authorities were concerned that Uber was deemed to be failing to take public safety and security seriously – particularly on issues like how crimes committed under its watch were reported to the police as well as background checks on drivers.

At the time, TfL said the company's approach and conduct demonstrated "a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications." It was on this basis TfL - with the backing of London Mayor Sadiq Khan - declined to renew the app's five-year licence.

The move also came amid pressure from traditional London cab drivers, who felt the disruptive app has no right to operate on their territory.

Now, following a two-day court battle chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot has deemed the taxi-hailing firm "fit and proper" to be granted a temporary licence of 15 months.

Boost for the brand?

Tuesday's win will come as a boost to recently-instated chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi who has sought to position the Uber brand in a new light following a series of PR disasters and scandals under the old guard.

Uber built its case by convincing the court that was undertaking a fresh course of action following the departure of notorious ex-chief executive Travis Kalanick.

Khan had earlier in the year praised the "humility" and "more sensible approach" of Khosrowshahi in fighting the London ban, compared to his tantrum-prone predecessor.

The company's lawyers in court detailed changes to its policies and the appointment of new management in the UK, saying it had fully complied with TfL's expectations.

These policy changes include reporting of serious incidents to the authorities and making sure that drivers only operate in areas where they are permitted to do so.

Under Kalanick's leadership, a scathing memo exposed a toxic workplace where sexual harassment and discrimination was openly ignored (leading to his adrupt exit, along with several other executives). Months later, it was revealed the brand also attempted to cover up a massive data breach affecting over 50 million users.

In addition, the firm has had an internal spy unit exposed in 2017, and has been the subject of government investigations on both sides of the Atlantic. It's also been repeatedly fighting lawsuits to limit the rights of its drivers and media coverage around the safety of women traveling alone using its service.

Khosrowshahi, along with departing marketing boss Bozoma Saint John, have sought to bring a more transparent and open approach to the business' marketing, investing heavily in apology ads in the US and ads reassuring users that they can trust their drivers in the UK.

All in all, the brand has set aside about $500m for a push to show it's building a better culture for employees, drivers and passengers

However, after just over one year at the firm Saint John is to leave to join Endeavor – leaving the future of its marketing team in doubt, with a chief brand officer replacement yet to be announced.

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