Uber has been stripped of its licence to operate in London over safety breaches, Transport for London (TfL) has confirmed.
It found that in at least 14,000 Uber trips, drivers had uploaded photos of themselves to the app linked to cars which they were not registered to drive, meaning passengers were being picked up by drivers not named or authorised by the company.
TfL said: ‘A key issue identified was that a change to Uber’s systems allowed unauthorised drivers to upload their photos to other Uber driver accounts. ‘This allowed them to pick up passengers as though they were the booked driver, which occurred in at least 14,000 trips – putting passenger safety and security at risk.
This means all the journeys were uninsured and some passenger journeys took place with unlicensed drivers, one of which had previously had their licence revoked by TfL.’ Another failure allowed dismissed or suspended drivers to create an Uber account and carry passengers, again compromising passenger safety and security, TfL.
The ride-hailing app firm’s existing licence expires at 11.59pm tonight. Uber has said it will appeal the decision, and will be allowed to continue to operate during the appeal process.
Helen Chapman, director of licensing, regulation and charging at TfL, said: ‘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. ‘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.
‘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 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.
‘If they do appeal, Uber can continue to operate and we will closely scrutinise the company to ensure the management has robust controls in place to ensure safety is not compromised during any changes to the app.’
Uber’s regional general manager for northern and eastern Europe Jamie Heywood said the company will appeal TfL’s decision. He added: ‘TfL’s decision not to renew Uber’s licence in London is extraordinary and wrong.
‘We have fundamentally changed our business over the last two years and are setting the standard on safety. TfL found us to be a fit and proper operator just two months ago, and we continue to go above and beyond.
‘On behalf of the 3.5 million 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.’
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said in a statement: ‘I know this decision may be unpopular with Uber users but their safety is the paramount concern. ‘Regulations are there to keep Londoners safe, and fully complying with TfL’s strict standards is essential if private hire operators want a licence to operate in London.’
Steve McNamara, General Secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, said: ‘The Mayor has absolutely made the right decision in refusing to re-license Uber, and Londoners will be safer as a result.
‘Unfit operators cannot get away with deliberately shirking their responsibilities. ‘Uber have had 17 months to comply with the conditions of their temporary licence, and yet they have continually put Londoners at risk by letting drivers on the road who aren’t properly licensed or insured.’
The long-running battle between Uber and TfL
It is the second time in just over two years the company has lost its licence in the UK capital after TfL found it ‘not fit and proper’. The Silicon Valley-based company, which has faced pushback from authorities and existing operators in several countries, has 21 days to appeal and can continue to take rides during the process, which is likely to include court action and could drag on for months.
Uber and TfL have been engaged in a long-running battle since TfL rejected a renewal request in 2017, citing shortcomings in the firm’s approach to reporting serious criminal offences and driver background checks.
A judge in 2018 then granted Uber a probationary 15-month licence, after the company made several changes to its business model. In September, TfL gave Uber just a two-month extension, far short of the maximum possible five years, and imposed further conditions covering ride-sharing, appropriate insurance and driver document checks.
Ahead of the latest decision, Uber said it would introduce measures such as a discrimination button enabling drivers and riders to report abuse, enhanced safety training for drivers and a direct connection to the emergency services.