Transport for London (TfL) has ruled against granting Uber a new private hire operator’s licence, deeming it to ‘not be fit and proper’ to hold one.
The company has confirmed that it will appeal the decision. Uber will be closely monitored by TfL but is able to carry on operating while the appeal process takes place.
A change to Uber’s systems allowed unauthorised drivers to upload their photos to other Uber driver accounts, which occurred ‘in at least 14,000 trips – putting passenger safety and security at risk’, TfL said.
TfL, which acts as the regulator for London, said this was a key issue and that uninsured passenger journeys took place with unlicensed drivers, one of whom had previously had their licence revoked.
Another failure allowed dismissed or suspended drivers to create an Uber account and carry passengers, again compromising passenger safety and security, and other serious breaches occurred, including several insurance-related issues.
TfL recognised the progress Uber had made but raised concerns its systems had been easily manipulated.
London mayor Sadiq Khan said: ‘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.’
Uber now has 21 days to appeal, during which it can continue to operate as well as throughout any appeals process. If it does appeal the case will go to a magistrates’ court.
TfL said it will continue to closely scrutinise the private hire operator to ensure robust controls are put in place with regards passenger safety.
Jamie Heywood, Uber’s regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, 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. 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.”
‘We have robust systems and checks in place to confirm the identity of drivers and will soon be introducing a new facial matching process, which we believe is a first in London taxi and private hire.’
Uber, which has 45,000 drivers in London and around 3.5 million users, was given a two month licence in September after a protracted negotiation with TfL over whether it is ‘fit and proper’ to hold one.
It was first stripped of its licence in 2017 after the police raised concerns that it had not reported allegations of sexual assault.
TfL also had concerns Uber had been misleading about its processes and used software to prevent regulators from accessing its data.
It appealed the decision and was granted a 15-month licence by a magistrate after it had admitted fault and shown improvements.
The licence had stringent conditions attached. These included:
A requirement for Uber to produce an independently verified assurance report every six months
A requirement for the addition of three non-executive directors to its board
A requirement for notice of at least 28 days for changes to its operating model
A requirement to maintain arrangements with the Metropolitan Police for the reporting of passenger complaints that may be criminal.