Transport for London (TfL) concluded it will not grant Uber London Ltd. (Uber) a new private hire operator's license in response to its latest application.
As the regulator of taxi and private hire services in London, TfL is required to decide on Uber's fitness and propriety before its current license expires.
According to TfL, Uber has made several positive changes and improvements to its culture, leadership, and systems in the period since the Chief Magistrate granted it a license in June 2018, including interacting with TfL in a transparent and productive manner. However, TfL identified a pattern of failures by the company including several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk.
Despite addressing some of the issues, 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.
In September, Uber was granted a two-month license as further information was required on these issues, some of which emerged late in the process of its reapplication.
A key issue identified was that a change to Uber's systems allowed unauthorized drivers to upload their photos to other Uber driver accounts. This issue allowed them to pick up passengers as though they were the booked driver, which occurred in at least 14,000 trips — putting passenger safety and security at risk.
The result that all the journeys with the unauthorized drivers were uninsured and some passenger journeys took place with unlicensed drivers, one of which had previously had their license revoked by TfL.
Another failure allowed dismissed or suspended drivers to create an Uber account and carry passengers, again compromising passenger safety and security.
Other serious breaches have also occurred, including several insurance-related issues. Some of these led TfL to prosecute Uber earlier this year for causing and permitting the use of vehicles without the correct hire or reward insurance in place.
While Uber has worked to address these issues, they highlight the potential safety risk to passengers of weak systems and processes, according to TfL.
Uber’s pattern of regulatory breaches led TfL to commission an independent assessment of Uber's ability to prevent incidents of this nature happening again. The work has led TfL to conclude that it currently does not have confidence that Uber has a robust system for protecting passenger safety, while managing changes to its app.
Legislation means that Uber now has 21 days to appeal, during which it can continue to operate pending any appeal and throughout any potential appeals process. Uber may seek to implement changes to demonstrate to a magistrate that it is fit and proper by the time of the appeal.
While Uber continues to operate, TfL will continue to closely scrutinize the private hire operator, which includes the need for Uber to meet the 20 conditions set by TfL in September 2019, and particular attention will be paid to ensuring that the management have robust controls in place to manage changes to the Uber app so that passenger safety is not put at risk.