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England: Uber Faces Operating Ban in London

(Jan. 13, 2020) On November 25, 2019, Transport for London (TfL), the authority responsible for regulating London’s public transport network and taxi and private hire operators, and for managing the area’s main roads, announced that Uber would not be granted a new license to operate in London due to a “pattern of failures … including several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk.”
The Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 mandates that private hire vehicles must have an operator’s, driver’s, and vehicle license to work in the London area. To obtain a license, certain criteria must be met, including that the operator be a “fit and proper person,” be over 21, and have held a UK driver’s license for three or more years, and that the vehicle be suitable and safe.
Uber has had a number of regulatory breaches, resulting in TfL commissioning an independent assessment of the company to see if its systems can prevent such occurrences from happening in the future. Significant issues at Uber that resulted in TfL’s decision not to grant a new license include a change in Uber’s system that permitted unauthorized drivers to upload their photographs to authorized Uber driver accounts. This resulted in drivers picking up passengers as though they were the booked driver and resulted in at least 14,000 trips that were uninsured, some with unlicensed drivers. Suspended and dismissed drivers were also able to create new Uber accounts. Various other breaches occurred, including a number of insurance issues, which resulted in TfL bringing a case against Uber for causing and permitting the use of vehicles without the correct insurance.
The work of the independent assessment led TfL to acknowledge that, while Uber had made some positive changes, “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.” It noted that Uber’s systems appear to be easy to manipulate and that the issues “highlight the potential safety risk to passengers [caused by] weak systems and processes.”
Without a license, Uber will be unable to operate in London, which is its top market in Europe, and one of its top five markets in the world , with approximately 45,000 drivers and 3.5 million riders in the area.
This is not the first time that Uber has lost its license to operate in London. In 2017, TfL announced that it would not renew Uber’s license after TfL determined there was a lack of corporate responsibility with regard to public safety and security. Uber was granted a fifteen-month license in the Magistrates Court after it appealed the decision . This license included the following conditions :
A requirement for Uber to produce an independently verified assurance report every six months
A requirement for the addition of three non-executive directors to its board
A requirement for notice of at least 28 days for changes to [Uber London Limited]’s operating model
A requirement to maintain arrangements with the Metropolitan Police for the reporting of passenger complaints that may be criminal.
An additional license to enable Uber to operate for two additional months after the expiration of the fifteen-month license was granted in September 2019 by TfL to provide it with more time to examine additional information relating to Uber. This extension required that Uber meet 20 additional conditions, including compliance with additional driver document checks and insurance requirements. The extension expired on November 24, 2019. Uber has announced that it will appeal the decision by TfL not to renew its license and is permitted to continue operating during the appeals process. TfL has stated that during this time Uber can “seek to implement changes to demonstrate to a magistrate that it is fit and proper by the time of the appeal.”

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