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Car Industry

Uber kicks off court battle to stay in business in London

The ride-hailing service's hearing begins Monday.

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Uber will fight for its right to operate in London.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Uber will argue to have its license to operate in London restored as its long-awaited court hearing begins on Monday.

Transport for London, the British capital's transport regulator, refused to renew the ride-hailing company's private hire license in September.

The regulator said that Uber showed "a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications."

"TfL has concluded that Uber London Limited is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence," it said in a statement at the time.

In the wake of this decision, Uber acknowledged that it made "serious mistakes" in the past and accepted that TfL's decision was justified. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi promised to start "building trust through our actions and our behavior."

Since then, Uber has also lost its operating licenses in York and Brighton.

The London hearing will take place at Westminster Magistrates' Court and is expected to last several days. The court will decide whether Uber is "fit and proper" to hold a licence at the time of the hearing -- rather than deciding whether TfL was right to refuse its renewal -- following the changes Uber has made in the last year.

Some of those changes include free insurance coverage for drivers across Europe including sickness, injury and maternity & paternity payments, the first ever driver hours limits for the UK's private hire industry, round-the-clock phone support for passengers and drivers and a system of proactively reporting serious incidents to the Metropolitan Police.

Regardless of the hearing's outcome, Uber won't be leaving London in the short term. England's laws allow the company to continue operations at least for the next stage in any challenge over the decision, Bloomberg notes.

The company has also found advocates in its loyal drivers and sponsored a mini-documentary series with the aim of reminding the UK that Uber journeys can be fun.

In May, Khosrowshahi kicked off a European charm offensive with the announcements of insurance coverage and of a $23.5 million investment in developing flying taxis.

By contrast, the drivers of traditional black cabs have spoken out against Uber -- with one slamming the low earnings of the ride-hailing service's drivers as "slave labor."

Updated at 3:05 am PT: Adds that Uber accepted that FtL's September decision was justified. 

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