Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

London — Uber lodged a court appeal on Friday to overturn a decision by London’s transport regulator that stripped the taxi app company of its operating licence in its most important European market, the first stop on what is set to be a long legal road.

Transport for London (TfL) shocked the Silicon Valley firm in September by deeming it unfit to run a taxi service and refusing to renew its licence, citing its approach to reporting serious criminal offences and background checks on drivers.

The appeal marks the beginning of months of legal wrangling in a battle that had pitched one of the world’s richest cities against a Silicon Valley giant known for forays into new markets across the globe that have stoked competition for established cab companies.

Uber, whose backers include Goldman Sachs and BlackRock, will defend its London business at a hearing most likely due on December 11, a spokesperson at Britain’s judicial office said.

Uber, criticised by London mayor Sadiq Khan for employing an "an army of public relations experts and an army of lawyers", said that it hoped to keep talking to TfL to find a way forward.

"While we have today filed our appeal so that Londoners can continue using our app, we hope to continue having constructive discussions with Transport for London," an Uber spokesperson said.

"As our new CEO has said, we are determined to make things right." Only a month into the job, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi met TfL commissioner Mike Brown for talks earlier in October, which both sides said were constructive as the $70bn firm tries to repair its relationship with the regulator.

Uber’s licence expired on September 30 but its roughly 40,000 drivers in the British capital will be able to continue operating until the appeals process is exhausted.

Friday’s appeal was submitted to Westminster magistrates court in London as part of the first stage of a legal process which could take months or years to reach a conclusion.

The filing is a short notification of Uber’s intention to appeal rather than the detailed grounds.

London’s decision is one of the most serious setbacks to the taxi app, which has been forced to quit several countries, including Denmark and Hungary, and faced regulatory battles in multiple US states and around the world.

It comes after a tumultuous few months for the San Francisco start-up that led to former CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick being forced out after a series of boardroom controversies.

Earlier in October, the firm’s boss in the UK, Jo Bertram, said she would quit the taxi hailing app company, according to e-mails.

The company is also embroiled in court action against two drivers who won a tribunal case last year entitling them to workers’ rights such as the minimum wage and holiday entitlement, threatening its business model. Uber is appealing the verdict.

TfL said on Friday it would not comment before the licensing appeal hearing due later this year.

A spokesperson at the mayor of London’s office said that Khan, a politician from the opposition Labour Party who is also chairperson of TfL, continued to back the licence decision and that all private hire firms must play by the rules.

He said during a monthly question time session on Thursday that the transport authority would defend its decision during the legal action.

"The courts now will consider the appeal from Uber and, of course, TfL will defend the decision they made," he said.

Reuters

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