Uber has been denied an operating license renewal in London for the second time in just two years amid concerns over passenger safety.
Transport for London (TfL) cited a “pattern of failures” at the company as the key reason behind its denial, including several regulatory breaches that could pose risks to passenger safety.
The move by TfL marks another major blow for the company after being denied a license in September 2017. A lengthy court case eventually earned the firm a temporary reprieve. September this year saw TfL offered a temporary two-month license due to long-standing safety concerns.
TfL’s director of licensing, regulation and charging, Helen Chapman, said: “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.”
A key issue identified by TfL was that changes to Uber’s systems enable unauthorised drivers to upload photographs to other Uber driver accounts. These changes allowed unauthorised persons to pick up passengers and it is believed this occurred in at least 14,000 trips.
“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,” the regulator said in a statement.
Another failure identified by TfL allowed dismissed or suspended drivers to create Uber accounts and carry passengers, which again may have compromised passenger safety.
TfL recognised that certain steps have been put in place to prevent these activities. However, the regulator still voiced concerns that the company’s systems “seem to have been comparatively easily manipulated”.
Uber has the chance to appeal the decision within 21 days and its roster of 45,000 drivers will not be immediately prohibited from operating in the capital.
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.”