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Uber London “not fit and proper” to hold private hire operator licence, TfL concludes

Transport for London (TfL) has decided not to grant Uber London Limited (Uber) a new private hire operator's licence after concluding the company was “not fit and proper”.

Local Government Lawyer has approached Uber for comment, but it has been reported that the company will appeal the decision. It can continue operating until this appeal is heard.

TfL acknowledged that Uber had made “a number of positive changes and improvements to its culture, leadership and systems in the period since the Chief Magistrate granted it a licence in June 2018. This includes interacting with TfL in a transparent and productive manner.”

However, it said it had “identified a pattern of failures by the company including several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk”.

The regulator added that, despite Uber addressing some of those issues, it did not have confidence that similar issues would not reoccur in the future. This had “led it to conclude that the company is not fit and proper at this time.”

In September Uber was granted a two-month licence as further information was required on these issues.

TfL said a key issue identified was that a change to Uber's systems allowed unauthorised drivers to upload their photos to other Uber driver accounts.

“This 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,” TfL said.

“This means all the journeys were uninsured and some passenger journeys took place with unlicensed drivers, one of which had previously had their licence revoked by TfL.”

TfL claimed another failure allowed dismissed or suspended drivers to create an Uber account and carry passengers, “again compromising passenger safety and security”.

The regulator pointed to other serious breaches it said had 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.”

An independent assessment of Uber's ability to prevent incidents of this nature happening again, commissioned by TfL, had led the regulator 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”.

Helen Chapman, Director of Licensing, Regulation and Charging at TfL, said: “As the regulator of private hire services in London we are required to make a decision today on whether Uber is fit and proper to hold a licence.

“Safety is our absolute top priority. 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.

“It is clearly concerning that these issues arose, but it is also concerning that we cannot be confident that similar issues won't happen again in future.”

Chapman added: “If they choose to appeal, Uber will have the opportunity to publicly demonstrate to a magistrate whether it has put in place sufficient measures to ensure potential safety risks to passengers are eliminated.

“If they do appeal, Uber can continue to operate and we will closely scrutinise the company to ensure the management has robust controls in place to ensure safety is not compromised during any changes to the app.”