In Depth

Is this the end of Uber in London?

Transport for London revokes licence and says taxi firm is not ‘fit and proper’

Uber will no longer be licensed to operate in London after a regulator found that security issues were putting passengers’ safety at risk.

Transport for London (TfL) said it has identified “a pattern of failures” in the taxi app’s vetting system for driver recruitment, calling it “not fit and proper at this time”, The Guardian reports. 

Uber has said it will challenge the “extraordinary and wrong” decision to revoke the licence, and has 21 days to appeal. 

Why has TfL banned Uber?

After an investigation, TfL has stated that flaws in Uber’s recruiting system exposed “several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk”.

The Evening Standard reports that this includes the discovery that “at least 14,000 journeys were undertaken by drivers using another Uber account by exploiting ‘vulnerabilities’ in the company’s app”, and at least 43 drivers were “found to have uploaded their photos onto another Uber driver account, meaning that all the journeys were uninsured”.

Furthermore, Uber’s current set-up was found to allow dismissed or suspended drivers to create an Uber account and carry passengers.

At 11.59pm on Monday 25 November, Uber’s licence to carry passengers for money in London will officially expire.

Helen Chapman, director of licensing, regulation and charging at TfL, said: “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.”

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,” says the BBC.

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What happens now?

Uber said it was working to fix the problems TfL found and plans to appeal the decision to remove its licence. “You and the 3.5 million riders who rely on Uber in London can continue to use the app as normal,” it said in a message to its customers, the Mirror reports.

This is not the first time the company has run into trouble with TfL. The regulator previously rejected Uber’s licence renewal in September 2017, before the firm eventually persuaded judges to award it a 15-month licence to continue. And the last time its licence came up, in September this year, it was granted only a two-month extension rather than the traditional five-year one.

Nor is this the first time Uber has faced a ban. It pulled out of Denmark in 2017 because of new taxi laws that required drivers to have fare meters and seat sensors, the BBC reports, while Bulgaria and Hungary both stripped Uber’s right to operate following pressure from local taxi unions.

What does it mean for Uber customers?

People who need a ride can still book an Uber until the end of the appeals process. But Metro says that with “many Londoners questioning the ‘safety’ of London’s top transport app, they may start looking at the alternatives”.

Aside from old-school black cabs, there are plenty of other options available for passengers, the paper says, including Bolt, Gett, Kapten, ViaVan, Wheely, Kabbee, Free Now, Addison Lee and Getaround.

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