London watchdog shows Uber the door
Transport for London has taken away Uber’s license to operate in the city on concerns related to safety and security.
Costas Pitas had the news for Reuters:
Uber (UBER.N) was stripped of its license to carry paying passengers in London on Monday for the second time in just over two years, pending an appeal, over a “pattern of failures” on safety and security.
Unauthorized drivers were able to upload their photos to others’ accounts so that, on at least 14,000 trips, a driver other than the advertised one picked up passengers, the regulator Transport for London (TfL) said.
The ride-hailing firm immediately said it would appeal. The process is likely to include court action and could drag on for months, allowing Uber’s roughly 45,000 drivers in London, one of its most important markets, to keep taking rides despite its license expiring on Monday.
TfL said it had “identified a pattern of failures by the company including several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk”, and that some journeys had been uninsured.
“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.”
The BBC provided three perspectives on the news:
Uber “was especially important to me when I broke my leg and relied on it to transport me everywhere. Without Uber I would not have gone out at all and would have been miserable,” says Rachel Wilkinson, who works in business research.
She says she feels for those with mobility problems who might be more permanently reliant on hiring cars, especially when the alternative is pricier private hires and black cabs. “Uber genuinely was a lifeline,” she said.
Ms Wilkinson says she feels more pressure should be put on TfL to modernise black cabs with the same information available to Uber passengers, and to make them cheaper.
“I do want to make sure I’m driving with someone secure and safe,” she says, adding that Uber should monitor and assess drivers.
Kay, who didn’t want to give her surname, said her experience with Uber wasn’t good. She had used the app for about five years until she had an experience that made her uncomfortable enough to abandon her ride.
“I am sad for the genuine drivers who will lose their jobs,” she said. “But Uber itself? No.”
She says that after what turned into a disagreement about the route, her driver ignored one of her directions, driving quickly past her turn, and she chose to end the ride.
When she complained, Uber offered her £5. She gave the driver a one star review on the app – the worst possible – after which her driver complained about her. The company threatened to suspend her account.
“I knew it was going to happen,” says Muhammad Ali, who has been driving for Uber for nine months after a 19-year private hire career. He says he feels that TfL care more about drivers of London’s black cabs.
He says he was shocked about the news of so many unlicensed trips, but believes Uber is a good company to work for. “I know how this business works,” he says. “I think they are driver-friendly.”
Gwyn Topham from The Guardian reported:
When TfL first rejected Uber’s licence renewal, in September 2017, the firm eventually persuaded judges to award it a 15-month licence to continue.
While TfL said Uber had since made positive improvements, reservations remained – including a change to systems that allowed unauthorised drivers to upload their photos to other drivers’ accounts. This security lapse resulted in at least 14,000 trips – involving 43 drivers – where someone other than the booked driver picked up passengers, TfL said.
The incidents mostly occurred from late 2018 until early 2019, although TfL said it had only recently become aware of the extent of the problem – and the latest offence reported was less than three weeks ago. Among the 43 fraudulent drivers discovered were some whose licences had been revoked, and one driver who had been cautioned for distributing indecent images of children.
Uber said it first notified TfL about the issue in May 2019 and had since implemented technical fixes to resolve it. The firm also plans to bring in facial recognition technology.
London mayor Sadiq Khan backed TfL’s decision. He 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.”