Uber loses licence to operate in London following TfL announcement

Employment & Skills | Latest News | South East | Transport & Distribution

Global ridesharing platform, Uber, will not be granted a renewed licence to operate in London, following an announcement by Transport for London (TfL).

Uber originally lost its licence in 2017 due to safety concerns, but was granted a 15-month extension soon after.

As the regulator of taxi and private hire services in London, TfL is required to make a decision on Uber’s fitness and propriety before its current licence expires.

According to Tfl, 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. This includes interacting with TfL in a transparent and productive manner.

However, TfL has 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.

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 scrutinise 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.

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. 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.”

For the 3.5 million riders in London, who rely on the app to get around, there will be no change when using Uber.

For the 45,000 TfL licensed drivers who rely on Uber to make a living, the firm has promised that it will continue to operate while the appeal process continues. This means that Uber drivers will be able work and earn as usual.

A statement from Uber regarding the ruling stated: “On Monday 25 November, Transport for London (TfL) announced their decision not to renew Uber’s licence to operate in London.

“We have fundamentally changed our business over the last two years and are setting the standard on safety. TfL found us to be a fit and proper operator just two months ago, and we continue to go above and beyond.

“We have introduced new safety features in the app for riders and drivers, introduced free accident and injury protection for drivers, improved our governance and compliance.

“We think this decision is wrong and we will appeal.”

Sam Dumitriu – Research Director at The Entrepreneurs Network whose work focuses on the gig economy, tax reform and immigration

TfL’s decision to strip Uber of its license to operate in London is disproportionate. It sends a signal across the world that London isn’t open to innovation and competition.

The violations uncovered by TfL, while troubling, have been addressed through stricter checks on drivers using AI and facial recognition. There’s no reason to expect that this specific problem will continue. Furthermore, if you take into account Uber’s other safety features, it’s likely they compare favourably to other modes of transport in London and definitely favourably compared to transport in London ten years ago before Uber.

Unlike the initial ban, there is now intense competition in London’s private hire market. However, there is a serious risk that a similarly aggressive regulatory approach will be applied to Uber’s competitors, such as Kapten and Bolt.

Disruption, innovation, and competition in the private hire market has been overwhelmingly beneficial to Londoners. Cutting fares and wait times, while providing flexible work for thousands of drivers in London.

CBI Chief UK policy director Matthew Fell

Uber’s popularity shows that customers value the service and choice that their innovative technologies offer. TfL of course have to be confident around safety issues, so we’d encourage both sides to continue the dialogue to determine what changes are required in order that Uber’s customers can continue to enjoy the service in the long term.

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