Transport for London (TfL) has announced that it will not grant Uber a new licence to operate in the capital after it concluded the ride-hailing giant is “not fit and proper”.
The news follows more than two years of uncertainty for the firm, which originally had its licence revoked in 2017. At the time, TfL highlighted concerns over Uber’s passenger safety practices and demonstrated a “lack of corporate responsibility”.
Following an appeal and the introduction of new safety features, the transport regulator granted the company a 15-month extension to continue operating while it worked on meeting TfL’s criteria for a new licence. It was given a further two months in September 2019.
While TfL said it believes Uber has made “a number of positive changes and improvements to its culture, leadership and systems” since the ordeal began, the regulator has “identified a pattern of failures by the company including several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk”.
In a statement, TfL added: “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.”
According to the regulator, it identified a change to Uber’s systems that allowed unauthorised drivers to upload their photos to other driver accounts. TfL said this allowed them to pick up passengers as though they were the booked driver and claimed this occurred in at least 14,00 trips, putting passenger safety at risk.
The system change means all of these journeys were uninsured and some journeys took place with unlicensed drivers, one of which had previously had their licence revoked by TfL.
Another flaw allowed dismissed or suspended drivers to create an Uber account and carry passengers.
Although TfL said it recognises Uber is taking steps to rectify these issues, it is concerned that the company’s systems “seem to have been comparatively easily manipulated”.
Furthermore, TfL prosecuted Uber earlier this year for permitting the use of vehicles without the correct hire or reward insurance in place.
As a result, the regulator “does not have confidence that Uber has a robust system for protecting passenger safety while managing changes to its app”.
Uber now has 21 days to appeal the decision, during which time it can continue to operate. It can also continue operating during any potential appeals process. In the meantime, TfL said it will “closely scrutinise” the firm, including the need for it to meet the 20 conditions set out in the September 2019 licence extension.
Helen Chapman, director of licensing, regulation and charging at TfL, commented: “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.”
In response to the news, a statement on Uber’s Twitter page reads: “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. 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.”