Saturday, January 18News For London

Uber attempts to regain London operating licence

Uber app (Image: thesun)

Uber fights back against U.K. regulator’s decision to revoke its operating license in London which will put its biggest market in Europe at risk. 

Uber Technologies Inc. has appealed against Transport for London’s (TFL) decision to revoke its operating license to work in the UK’s capital due to a “pattern of failures” in safety and security. 

Following this news, Uber released a statement describing the decision as “extraordinary and wrong”.

The taxi app firm’s regional general manager for northern and eastern Europe, Jamie Heywood, said safety is its “top priority” after the appeal was filed at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on the 13 December.

“We are committed to Londoners and are working closely with TfL to address their concerns and requests, as we have since 2017.” he concluded in his statement. 

Uber claims to have fundamentally changed how they operate in London over the past two years and had audited every driver in London in the two months prior to TFL’s decision. 

Despite being stripped of its operating licence in London by the TFL, over passenger safety fears, the company is allowed to continue operating in the capital until the appeal process is completed. This is expected to take months or even years.

Background 

Uber is said to serve an estimated 3.5 million customers with London being one of its top five markets globally, employing about 45,000 drivers in the city. 

According to Uber, the remaining 24% of its sales come from five cities; Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, São Paulo in Brazil. 

TfL first made the decision to withdraw the company’s licence to operate in London in September 2017. But, it was granted two extensions; a two-month licence extension in September, after being handed a 15-month extension in June 2018. The most recent extension just expired this November 2019. 

The TFL have claimed Uber is “not fit and proper to hold a private hire licence.” It claimed Uber had failed to adequately report numerous serious criminal offences to authorities, as well as having a poor process for conducting criminal record and backgrounds check on drivers.

Examples include drivers that were unlicensed and one who had even received a police caution for distributing indecent images of children.

This was due 14,000 Uber journeys which are said to have involved fraudulent drivers uploading their photos to other driver accounts. This means that Uber’s systems allowed unauthorised people to upload their photographs to legitimate driver accounts, enabling them to pick up passengers.

This resulted in 43 drivers making at least 14,000 uninsured trips in which passengers safety was at risk as they were getting into cars with unlicensed and/or suspended drivers.

London mayor Sadiq Khan backed TFL’s decision and commented: “I know this decision may be unpopular with Uber users, but their safety is the paramount concern”.

Steve McNamara, the general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, which represents London black-cab drivers, of which there are currently 126,000 licensed private hire and black cabs in London, said in an interview with The Guardian: “As far as we’re concerned Uber’s business model is essentially unregulatable”.

Uber has faced backlash in several markets in the past, with issues regarding the way it treats its drivers, competition concerns, and fears about passenger safety. This has forced it to withdraw from places including Copenhagen and Hungary. 

If this appeal is unsuccessful, it is suspected that Uber drivers will move over to other rival ride-sharing firms including, Bolt and Kapten.