- Uber has won back its London license after a two-day court battle.
- It's good news for the 3.5 million people who use Uber in London.
- But Uber isn't out of the woods: the license only lasts 15 months and Uber has to meet conditions from London's regulator.
- Despite making a decision favourable to Uber, chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot was critical of the company.
- In a hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court she said Uber thought it was "above the law."
- Uber admitted that it deserved to lose its license last year, but argued it has made lots of changes in the last 9 months.
The win is a boost for new chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi. Much of Uber's case rested on convincing the court that it was past the bad-boy days of its former CEO Travis Kalanick and ready to reform.
Chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot granted Uber a 15-month license to operate, on the condition that the firm undergoes an independently verified audit every six months.
Transport for London (TfL), the capital's regulator, will then decide whether to renew Uber's license again.
Uber has also agreed to several other conditions from TfL. These include reporting all serious safety complaints, training up existing and new Uber drivers on carsharing safety, and informing TfL of any major data breaches.
That's after TfL complained last year about the company's approach to reporting serious driver offenses. Its record on driver medical and safety checks, and the use of its secret "Greyball" software to dodge transport officials also contributed to the decision.
A spokesman for Uber said: "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."
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the court had "vindicated" TfL's original decision not to renew Uber's license in September. "Uber has been put on probation -- their 15 month license has a clear set of conditions that TfL will thoroughly monitor and enforce," he said in a statement.
Judge: Uber 'thought they were above the law'
Despite Uber's victory, both TfL and Arbuthnot landed some solid punches.
At one point during the proceedings on Tuesday, Arbuthnot said she had the impression that Uber "thought they were above the law."
And TfL's interim head of licensing Helen Chapman described a tough relationship with Uber over the last five years. She told the court on Tuesday: "We've had 5 years of a very difficult relationship where Uber has felt that they haven't required regulation and being regulated in the same way as everyone else we regulate."
She added that there were some serious cases where Uber had not taken complaints about drivers seriously enough, though she didn't go into detail. "Frankly some of the cases I've seen are quite appalling when they haven't taken any action... some of those concerns [and] cases that have been raised are very disturbing," she said.
Chapman added that while Uber had now reviewed complaints about drivers, "public safety has been compromised" in the meantime.
Uber said it has fundamentally changed as a business since last September
Uber maintained an apologetic tone throughout the two days, admitting that it probably deserved to lose its license thanks to the mistakes and corporate culture created under previous CEO Kalanick.
Executives including board chairwoman Laurel Powers-Freeling, the UK Head of Cities Fred Jones, and UK and Ireland chief Tom Elvidge took the stand.
Those executives acknowledged that Uber had not been fully transparent with regulators, and that the information it had provided them in the past had been inadequate and even misleading. But its lawyer Thomas de la Mare argued that Uber had made "wholesale change in the way that we conduct our business."
The firm pointed to its agreement with the Metropolitan Police to report serious crime, agreements with Uber's US parent firm to keep regulators in the loop about major product changes or issues, and the appointment of non-executive directors to its UK board.