Uber Reclaims London Licence

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A year after Transport for London (TfL) stopped ride-hailing service Uber’s London operating licence over safety concerns, an appeal has led to the company being granted a further 18-month licence.

What Happened?

Back in November 2019, TfL said that it had identified a pattern of failures by Uber, including breaches that had risked the safety of passengers and drivers, plus some uninsured journeys.  Uber had pledged to improve its drivers’ safety training and provide a direct connection to emergency services, but TfL stopped Uber’s licence to carry passengers in London.

What Failures?

The “pattern of failures” which led to Uber being refused a licence to operate in London back in 2019 may have included (according to details reported to be from letters sent to Uber by TfL):

– A global phishing scam involving GPS signal manipulation.

– Drivers using fake or possibly out-of-date insurance certificates.

– Unlicensed vehicles transporting passengers, and drivers with fraudulent private hire licences using the app to take passengers.

– Fraudulent account profile pictures used by some drivers.

– More than 27,000 safety-related complaints being made about Uber services between 1 December 2018 and 31 May 2019.

Happened Before

Uber had previously had its London licence removed by TfL in 2017 after it was decided that the company was “not fit and proper” following security issues, public safety issues, poor reporting (of serious in-car crimes), poor medical checks (of drivers) and poor background checks (of drivers).

In 2018, Uber was only given a probationary 15-month license in London following changes made to improve relations with city authorities.

Latest Ruling

After Uber appealed and argued that it has now improved insurance document verification systems and is rolling out real-time identification, Judge Tan Ikram said that “I am satisfied that they are doing what a reasonable business in their sector could be expected to do, perhaps even more”.  Now that Uber has been judged to be a fit and proper operator again, it has been granted an 18-month right to take rides in London.

Behaviour Towards Drivers

Uber has still to face the outcome of a Supreme Court hearing which will decide whether its drivers receive basic workers’ rights, such as holiday pay and the minimum wage for the hours they work.

Union

Unions such as the GMB have been vocal in their criticism of Uber’s behaviour towards its drivers with allegations that the ride-hailing giant may be effectively depriving drivers of an income by disconnecting them for days after false accusations have been made against them.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This is clearly good news for Uber and also for the many customers who have had a generally good experience of the company’s services in London in the past.  Even though Uber has made changes and apologised for mistakes, it will still face criticism from unions and have to handle objections and criticism from black cab operators, close scrutiny from TfL to make sure Uber keeps its promises, challenges from competitors who will not be pleased that Uber is back (e.g. Ola, Freenow and Bolt) and all the challenges, safety requirements and reduced revenue that have come with the pandemic. It now remains to be seen how Uber behaves going forwards and how it can operate effectively in a dramatically changed environment.

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