Uber loses licence to operate in London

25 November 2019

25 November 2019

Mobility service provider Uber has been refused an extension of its temporary licence in London, and will not be allowed to operate a service in the UK capital.

Transport for London (TFL) said the provider was not “fit and proper” as a licence holder, despite having made several positive changes to its operations. Uber initially lost its licence in 2017 but was granted two extensions, the most recent of which expired on the 24 November.

The company has indicated its intention to appeal the decision and can continue to operate in this period. Around 45,000 Uber drivers work in London, which is one of the provider’s top five markets globally.

Safety first

′Uber has made a number of positive changes and improvements to its culture, leadership and systems in the period since the Chief Magistrate granted it a licence in June 2018. This includes interacting with TfL in a transparent and productive manner,’ the authority said in a statement.

′However, TfL has identified a pattern of failures by the company, including several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk. 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.’

TfL identified several issues that highlighted the trouble leading to the licence to operate being revoked. One involved a change to Uber’s systems which allowed unauthorised drivers to upload their photos to other 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, the authority said. This would mean these journeys are uninsured, and some even took place with unlicensed drivers.

Another failure allowed dismissed or suspended drivers to create an Uber account and carry passengers, again compromising passenger safety and security.

Efforts concerning

‘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,’ said Helen Chapman, director of Licensing, Regulation and Charging at TfL.

‘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.’

In an attempt to keep its licence after the temporary period, Uber had put certain safety measures in place.  These include the option for passengers to send journey information to friends and relatives, plus the ability to track their movements, as well as introducing the option of calling emergency services directly from the app. Uber also carried out more rigorous driver checks and made efforts to train drivers to alert them to hazardous surroundings, such as cycle lanes.