Uber loses licence to operate in London due to ‘pattern of failures’

25 Nov 2019

Image: © william87/Stock.adobe.com

London is one of Uber’s largest markets, with more than 3.5m passengers using the service in 2018. The ride-hailing company will appeal the decision made by Transport for London.

On Monday (25 November), Uber took yet another blow, when it was announced that the company has lost its licence to operate private hire vehicles in London due to concerns about passenger safety.

London is one of the American multinational ride-sharing company’s largest markets, with 3.5m users in 2018. According to Transport for London (TfL), more than 14,000 of the trips operated in London by Uber were taken with uninsured drivers.

In these cases, someone other than the booked driver had picked up passengers who had ordered an Uber through the app. TfL also noted that this happened after the company resolved a security issue that allowed unauthorised drivers to upload their photos to other drivers’ accounts.

According to TfL, some of the unauthorised drivers had been individuals who had their licences revoked and included a driver who was cautioned for distributing indecent images of children.

‘Not fit and proper’

TfL said that it has identified a “pattern of failures” by the ride-hailing company, which indicates “that the company is not fit and proper at this time”.

The announcement was made after TfL decided not to renew the San Francisco-based company’s licence at the end of a two-month probationary extension granted in September.

In a statement, TfL said: “Despite addressing some of these issues, TfL does not have confidence that similar issues will not reoccur in the future, which has led it to conclude that the company is not fit and proper at this time.”

Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association in London, believes that TfL’s action against the company is justified.

McNamara said: “It’s all about public safety and the mayor has taken the right decision. As far as we’re concerned Uber’s business model is essentially unregulatable. It is based on everyone doing what they want and flooding London with vehicles.

“Uber cannot guarantee that the cars are properly insured, or that the person driving the car is the one that is supposed to be driving, as recent incidents show.”

Helen Chapman, director of licensing, regulation and charging at TfL said: “While we recognise that Uber has made improvements, it is unacceptable that Uber has allowed passengers to get into minicabs with drivers who are potentially unlicensed and uninsured.

“It is clearly concerning that these issues arose, but it is also concerning that we cannot be confident that similar issues won’t happen again in the future. 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.”

Uber’s response

Uber has said it will appeal the decision. The company will be allowed to continue operating pending the outcome of the appeal, as long as it launches official proceedings within 21 days.

Uber’s regional general manager, Jamie Heywood, said: “TfL’s decision not to renew Uber’s licence in London is extraordinary and wrong, and we will appeal. We have fundamentally changed our business over the last two years and are setting the standard on safety.

“On behalf of the 3.5m riders and 45,000 licensed drivers who depend on Uber in London, we will continue to operate as normal and will do everything we can to work with TfL to resolve this situation.”

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic