Last Monday, we in the U.S. were getting ready for our Thanksgiving Day celebrations. Meanwhile, on the same day on the other side of the pond, Uber lost its ability to operate in London.
The reason? As per the city’s regulator, Transport for London (TfL), it was a “pattern of failures” by the ridesharing service that put passengers’ safety at risk. So they refused to renew Uber’s license, which expired Monday, November 25.
As per Business Insider, TfL found unauthorized drivers using the accounts of approved Uber drivers and picking up passengers using vehicles they weren’t registered to drive.
None of the drivers of the 14,000 trips were insured, some of the unauthorized drivers hadn’t been licensed by the TfL and one driver had even had their license revoked. TfL also said that drivers who had been suspended from Uber were still able to make accounts so they could start driving again.
The regulator that made the decision said that Uber’s “pattern of failure” included a flaw in the ridesharing’s software that allowed unauthorized drivers to sneak into it. They’d go into cahoots with authorized drivers, using a system called “account spoofing.”
According to the New York Times, Uber lost its license to operate in London in 2017 due to, among other things, the company’s approach to criminal offenses, medical certificates, disclosure, and the company’s use of its Greyball software that TfL said blocked regulatory bodies from gaining full access to Uber’s app for law enforcement purposes. At the time, Uber appealed and in June 2018 was given a temporary license after it promised to fix its systems. In September 2019, they received a 2-month license, while TfL asked for “additional information” regarding safety, identification and insurance from Uber before considering a longer-term license.
That brings us to now. Authorities agreed that Uber, “has made a number of positive changes and improvement to its culture, leadership and systems,” but Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said TfL couldn’t be confident that Uber had enough new regulation in place to “prevent another serious safety breach in the future.”
“While we recognize Uber has made improvements, it is unacceptable that Uber has allowed passengers to get into minicabs with drivers who are potentially unlicensed and uninsured,” TfL’s licensing director, Helen Chapman, said in a statement.
“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 the future.”
Uber said it already notified regulators about the unauthorized drivers in May and had since closed the loophole. The ride-sharing company is appealing the TfL’s decision and will be allowed to continue to operate in the city during the appeal process.
“We understand we’re held to a high bar, as we should be,” Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s chief executive, said on Twitter. “But this TfL decision is just wrong. Over the last 2 years, we have fundamentally changed how we operate in London. We have come very far — and we will keep going, for the millions of drivers and riders who rely on us.”
With 3.5 million users in London alone, the city is Uber’s biggest market in Europe and one of its top five markets in the world (along with Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and São Paulo). A loss of the ride-sharing company in London would be a big change for riders and drivers alike, as well as the multiple ride-sharing companies waiting to jump into Uber’s potential grave.
I guess we’ll see what happens next…
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary