A change in Uber’s systems allowed unauthorised drivers to upload photos to other driver accounts 

Uber has lost its licence to operate in London after it was accused of a “pattern of failures” where at least 14,000 journeys were made using unauthorised or uninsured drivers, potentially jeopardising passenger safety.

This has led the regulator of the taxi and private hire services firm Transport for London (TfL) to revoke Uber’s licence in response to its latest application after it commissioned an independent assessment of Uber’s ability to prevent further incidents from occurring.

A change in Uber’s systems allowed unauthorised drivers to upload their photos to other Uber driver accounts, allowing them to pick up passengers as though they were the booked driver. Therefore, all these journeys were uninsured, and some passenger journeys took place with unlicensed drivers. 

Some of the more serious insurance related breaches saw TfL prosecute Uber earlier this year for “causing and permitting the use of vehicles without the correct hire or reward insurance in place”.

Another failure allowed dismissed or suspended drivers to create an Uber account and carry passengers.

Uber now has 21 days to appeal during which it can continue to operate pending any appeal and throughout any potential appeal process. Uber may seek to implement changes to demonstrate to a magistrate that is “fit and proper” by the time of appeal.

TfL will continue to closely scrutinise the private hire operator – this includes the requirement of meeting 20 conditions set by the regulator back in September. Particular attention will be given to ensuring that the management have robust controls in place to manage changes to the Uber app to maximise passenger safety.

Back in October Uber was urged to have appropriate insurance as one of the conditions set by TfL. 

Positive changes?

Although Uber has made a number of positive changes and improvements to its culture, leadership and systems in the period since the chief magistrate grated it a licence in June 2018. This includes interacting with TfL in a “transparent productive manner”.

Helen Chapman, director of licensing, regulation and charging at TfL, explained: ’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.”

Despite addressing these issues TfL said that it does not have the confidence that similar issues will not reoccur in the future therefore it concluded that the company is “not fit and proper at this time”.

Top priority

“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, “she continued. 

Back in September Uber was granted a two-month extension licence as further information was needed on these issues some of which emerged later on in the process of its reapplication.

Chapman concluded: “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.”

Insurance Times has contacted Uber for comment.