Uber is a firm which is never too far away from controversy, and it has opened a new chapter in the UK as Transport for London (TfL) has refused to grant the firm a new private hire operator’s licence.
The latest drama has unfolded following a review from TfL after it appeared the driver identification and authentication process was being abused. A change in the Uber systems allowed unauthorised drivers to upload their photos to other Uber driver accounts and operate under false pretences. TfL has identified 14,000 trips which we completed by an unauthorised driver.
This does not mean the end of Uber in London for the moment, though it is not the most comfortable position. The firm has 21 days to appeal the decision with the Magistrates Court and will be allowed to continue to operate until the appeal process is complete. However, it no-longer has a licence to operate in London.
“As the regulator of private hire services in London we are required to make a decision today on whether Uber is fit and proper to hold a licence,” said Helen Chapman, Director of Licensing, Regulation and Charging at TfL.
“Safety is our absolute top priority. While we recognise Uber has made improvements, it is unacceptable that Uber has allowed passengers to get into minicabs with drivers who are potentially unlicensed and uninsured.
“If they choose to appeal, Uber will have the opportunity to publicly demonstrate to a magistrate whether it has put in place sufficient measures to ensure potential safety risks to passengers are eliminated.”
What is worth noting is this is a separate issue being faced by the firm, not a continuation of previous challenges. Uber has been in dispute with TfL over its licence since September 2017 and has already appealed to the Magistrates Court. As a result, Uber was granted a 15-month licence with attached conditions to fix its process systems and processes. However, once this licence expired in September, TfL opened the subsequent investigation leading to today.
TfL told Telecoms.com that it did not have the confidence in the Uber systems and processes to guarantee the safety of customers using the firm’s services. Uber will now have to demonstrate to another Magistrate Court it is capable of creating safeguards to meet the safety obligations. As a note, this is the first-time drivers in London have been found to be abusing the rules in this manner.
Next steps will see Uber back in court to demonstrate how it is making positive changes to meet the requirements of TfL. As TfL noted Uber has improved its system and processes since the original criticism, perhaps the most likely outcome is another temporary licence with conditions for improvement, though reputational damage from this saga is almost unavoidable.