Uber has lost its license to operate in London as TFL blames passenger security

Uber London license
Uber has lost its operating license in London, and now has 21 days to appeal. Photo: Uber.

Pattern of failures

While Transport for London acknowledged that Uber “has made a number of positive changes and improvements to its culture, leadership and systems”, the regulatory body rejected the application based on a “pattern of failures”, which led Transport for London to conclude that it “does not have confidence that similar issues will not reoccur in the future”.

The decision will be a major blow to Uber, considering that the taxi-hailing app counts London as one of its biggest markets. There will also be a fear that other major cities across the world will reassess their relationship with Uber, with the provider already excluded from such locations as Denmark, Hungary, Bulgaria and China.

While the decision of Transport for London will damage Uber’s operation in the UK, it will not have come as a huge surprise to the taxi operator. Uber has, in fact, struggled to be fully accepted in England’s capital city, and had experienced licensing problems over recent months and applications.

Uber London app
Licensed taxi drivers in London previously brought the capital to a standstill during protests against Uber. Photo: David Holt via Flickr.

Two-month extension

In September, Uber was only granted a two-month extension to its license, as Transport for London required further information on some of the issues that the regulator had highlighted. A key issue identified was that an alteration in the way that Uber’s systems operated made it possible for unauthorised drivers to upload their photos to other Uber driver accounts.

Transport for London stated that it identified at least 14,000 trips in which this occurred, and that this practice compromises passenger safety. Indeed, Transport for London discovered that many of these journeys involved unlicensed drivers, one of which had previously had their license revoked by Transport for London.

An official statement from Transport for London also noted that another loophole in the Uber system had allowed dismissed or suspended drivers to create an Uber account and carry passengers. While the regulator acknowledged that steps had been taken in order to address these issues, the fact that “Uber’s systems seem to have been comparatively easily manipulated” was clearly a cause for concern.

Appeal period

UK legislation now affords Uber 21 days to lodge an appeal, during which time it can continue to operate in London. Transport for London will meanwhile continue to assess Uber, particularly seeking improvements that address the 20 conditions set by Transport for London in September 2019, when Uber was offered a two-month license extension.

Uber London license
Uber Eats has also become popular in London, and it now remains to be seen what will happen to this business should Uber cease to operate in England’s capital city. Photo: shopblocks via Flickr.

Uber had previously received a 15-month private hire operator’s license from the Chief Magistrate with conditions. At that time, Transport for London has cited a “lack of corporate responsibility” around safety and security.

The taxi booking app has become hugely successful and popular since it was launched in 2009, generating revenue in excess of $11 billion in 2018.

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