Black cab drivers have lost a High Court challenge to strike down Uber’s licence to operate in London.
Dismissing the case, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett, said the judge who granted the licence – Lord Arbuthnot – was not biased.
Lord Burnett, who is the top judge in England and Wales, struck down the claim against the 15-month permit granted to Uber.
“Having ascertained all the circumstances bearing on the suggestion that the judge was biased, we consider that those circumstances would not lead a fair-minded and informed observer to conclude that there was a real possibility that the judge was biased in this case,” the judgment declared.
He added that the list of “tenuous connections unearthed” by the black cab drivers’ complaint fell “well short of evidence that would begin to give a fair-minded observer even pause for thought”.
Uber’s UK boss admitted the decision not to renew its London licence last year was correct, as the company acknowledged shortcomings in passenger safety.
Chief Magistrate Arbuthnot issued a shorter licence with strict conditions in order to allow Uber to continue to operate while improving the safety standards of its service.
In her ruling, she said that Uber’s failure to inform police of criminal allegations “lacked common sense” and that the company had painted a “false picture” of its security processes.
The ride-hailing app and company is under significant pressure in the markets in which it operates, both from regulators seeking to ensure it complies with the law, and from competitors whose business it has disrupted.
Among Uber’s critics is Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, who is seeking powers to limit the number of Uber drivers in the English capital after a similar move in New York City.
Last December, Uber lost a Court of Appeal battle against giving its drivers basic employment protections, including minimum wage and holiday pay.
The judgement could put Uber’s business model in the UK at risk, requiring it to recognise drivers as “limb (b)” workers – crucially allowing them to collective bargaining rights.
The company has been engaged in legal appeals since 2016, when an employment tribunal found it unlawfully classed drivers as independent contractors.
At the time, Sir Terence Etherton, the second most senior judge in England and Wales, told the court that the tribunal was “not only entitled, but correct” to class Uber drivers as workers.
Uber was granted permission to appeal the case to the Supreme Court and stated it would do so.