Uber has lost its licence to operate in London for the second time in two years as it faces the prospect of a ban from the capital, all for failing to stop unlicensed and uninsured drivers picking up passengers.
Transport for London (TfL) said it had identified ‘several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk’. One was that authorities found more than 14,000 trips taken with more than 40 drivers who had faked their identity on the Uber app, thus leading to the ride-hailing company having its licence renewal denied today. This means that Uber faces a fight to keep its operations and app running in one of its largest cities.
There are around 45,000 Uber drivers in London and London is one of five cities, alongside New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and São Paulo, that together accounted for almost a quarter of Uber’s gross bookings last year.
That alone makes securing a licence renewal in London vital to chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi’s push towards more predictable and profitable growth.
The company has also positioned London as a leading example of its attempt to become a one-stop-shop for any kind of transportation and logistics, by integrating not just rides but bikes, food delivery and even public transit into its app. Still, the company is already facing resurgent competition in the city from rivals including Ola, Kapten and Bolt.
Previously, the ride-hailing company was blocked from London in September 2017, leading to a protracted legal battle with London’s regulator winning it a reprieve. Later on, in June 2018, Uber was granted a 15-month licence by a judge after it appealed against a TfL decision not to renew its licence over safety and security concerns.
Although in September this year, its hope of securing a full five-year licence was torn when TfL offered only a two-month temporary licence over ongoing safety and security concerns.
The ride-hailing app’s existing licence was due to expire at 11.59 pm today.
Transport for London has raised concerns about the safety of passengers and previously gave reasons for revoking the licence cited, which were:
- The company’s approach to reporting serious criminal offences,
- How drivers’ medical certificates were obtained,
- How criminal record checks were carried out, and
- Its use of technology which allegedly helped it evade law enforcement officials.
When Uber was granted the short extension September, a spokesman for London mayor Sadiq Khan, who chairs TfL, said private hire operators must fully comply with strict standards which keep Londoners safe.
“Sadiq has been crystal clear that in London it doesn’t matter how powerful and how big you are, you must play by the rules.”
Helen Chapman, TfL’s director of licensing, regulation and charging said today:
“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.”
The ride-hailing company says a range of new safety features has been introduced to its app in the past two years.
For instance, earlier this month, Uber launched a system which automatically checks on the well-being of drivers and passengers when a journey is interrupted by a long stop.
The company also unveiled a discrimination reporting button on its app and collaborated with the AA to produce a safety video to educate drivers on topics such as reading the road, speed, space management and how to drop off and pick up passengers safely.
Uber is expected to appeal the decision and potentially get another extension to its licence in the meantime. Its services will not immediately be blocked and the company can continue to operate pending the outcome, provided it launched official proceedings within 21 days.