Will Uber be able to stay in London?

Green light or red light? A London Magistrate’s Court is due to say this Monday, September 28, whether or not Uber is allowed to continue operating in the British capital. The stake is paramount for the Californian company of transport cars with driver (VTC) even if, in the event of defeat, Uber will undoubtedly initiate recourse.

With 45,000 drivers working with the app and some 3.5 million customers, London is arguably its number one market in Europe. By comparison, France has only 30,000 Uber drivers, including perhaps 20,000 in Paris, for a total of 3 million customers.

Drivers without a license

At the origin of the judgment, there is the decision of Transport for London (TFL) to withdraw the operating license of VTC from Uber. TFL is the city’s public authority responsible for regulating transport, be it buses or subways. It is also, unlike what is happening in France, which authorizes or not private driver companies to operate in the capital for a given period. On November 25, she felt that security concerns prevented her from giving such latitude to Uber, which challenged the decision in court. His appeal was suspensive.

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The authority pointed to shortcomings ” that endanger users. The computer system would have thus given the possibility to drivers without license to install their photos on the accounts of other drivers and to take charge of passengers in a fraudulent manner. Or even create accounts themselves. Uber then appealed, which allowed it to continue operating. The VTC company argues for the significant strengthening of controls on the identity of drivers or access to emergency services for passengers via the application …

Employees or self-employed?

Many countries have taken legal action against Uber, but they mostly relate to the social aspects of its business model. The company asserts itself as a platform for relationships between independent drivers and customers, and not as a transport company. This is disputed by some drivers who affirm the existence of a link of subordination with Uber and ask for a requalification in employment contract.

For the first time in France, the Court of Cassation decided on such a requalification last March. According to a lawyer, many other cases are under investigation or about to be filed.

A referendum in California?

Even in California, where the company was born, Uber is engaged in a legal standoff over the status of drivers. A law, which entered into force on January 1, 2020, drastically limits the possibilities for this type of business to use self-employed workers in the State. With other VTC operators, Uber wants to organize a popular referendum in November on a bill allowing them to continue to operate with independent drivers but with reinforced social protection.

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