Uber must not think it is invulnerable

Our Head of External Relations, Elizabeth Anderson argues that TfL was absolutely right to strip Uber of its licence to operate in London.

Once again, Transport for London has stripped Uber of its licence to carry passengers in the capital.  This is hardly a surprise – having successfully appealed their 2017 ban, the operator then found itself on a short extension two months ago, which TfL did not renew.

For everyone – although arguably especially women, and especially late at night – passenger safety is massively important.  With an Uber, one is literally getting into the car of a stranger and trusting that they will drive you to the right place.  Of course, this is the case with any minicab (black cabs, of course, have a barrier between driver and passenger, and different door locks, to help provide safety and reassurance for both passenger and driver).  However, TfL requires that your minicab firm must give you the details of the person and car collecting you – and that the driver must be licenced by them.

So, what’s the issue – surely Uber were doing that?  Well they were.  But their app was also reportedly subject to security breaches, which led to other people uploading their photos to drivers’ accounts and allowing them to collect people as though they were the booked driver.  And those people were, we understand, not licenced with TfL, not insured and not checked.  Big deal?  Well, there were, according to TfL, 14,000 such trips.  Which is quite a few.  Not only that, but it was also reported that drivers who Uber had sacked or were investigating were able to simply register a new user account and go back to work un-detected.

Uber say that they will fix the problems, they say they will appeal – and they can legally continue to operate until that appeal happens.

Some have said that this is an assault on consumer choice – but London is awash with alternative firms, who TfL also regulate and therefore manage to meet the high standards that are essential in transporting people around the capital.  As well as black cabs, there are plenty of reliable and well-known apps to get a car to you quickly, as well as minicab firms that are well regulated and provide much needed local employment across London.

For me, ever since early scandals affecting Uber as a carrier, I have had concerns about their procedures and whether they had sufficient rigour around their protocols to ensure my safety.  And it gives me great confidence in those operators around London who retain their TfL licence.  The TfL decision shows that they take the wellbeing of those travelling in private hire vehicles seriously and won’t allow standards to fail simply because big business puts the squeeze on.

TfL are doing exactly what they should do – applying regulations to bring about a better service, and most importantly, protect the public where there are serious failures.

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