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Uber loses its licence to operate in London, says it will appeal

David Murphy

Uber has lost its licence to operate in London, after Transport for London (TfL) said that it would not grant the firm a new private hire operator's licence in response to its latest application. Uber originally lost its licence in 2017 over safety concerns, but was granted a 15-month extension, followed by a further two-month extension, which expired yesterday. Uber has 21 days to appeal the decision, during which it can continue to operate. If it does appeal, it can also continue to operate during the appeal process.

While acknowledging that Uber has 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, TfL also said it had identified a pattern of failures by the company, including several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk.

“Despite addressing some of these 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,” TfL said in a statement.

A key issue identified by TfL 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. All of these journeys were uninsured and some passenger journeys took place with unlicensed drivers, one of which had previously had their licence revoked by TfL. Another failure allowed dismissed or suspended drivers to create an Uber account and carry passengers.

“TfL recognises the steps that Uber has put in place to prevent this type of activity. However, it is a concern that Uber's systems seem to have been comparatively easily manipulated,” the statement continued. “This 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.”

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. 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.”

Uber has confirmed that it will appeal the decision in an email to customers. It said: “We think this decision is wrong and we will appeal. You and the 3.5 million riders who rely on Uber in London can continue to use the app as normal.

Over the last two years we have fundamentally changed our business, and TfL found us to be a fit and proper operator just two months ago.”

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