Uber denied licence to operate in London

Ride-hailing company has just 21 days to appeal the decision

Uber has lost its license to operate in London once again, with authorities saying the company was not a "fit and proper operator", following a two-month extension granted in September.

Transport for London (TfL) originally stripped the company of its London license in 2017 after it discovered more than 14,000 trips were completed by unlicensed and uninsured operators. Uber then appealed and won a temporary reprieve.

While the transport authority recognised that "Uber has made a number of positive changes and improvements", including working in a "transparent and productive manner", it wasn't enough to satisfy officials.

Uber had demonstrated "a pattern of failures" involving passenger safety, something that TfL was unwilling to risk happening again if the company was allowed to continue to operate within the capital.

"Safety is our absolute top priority," said Helen Chapman, director of licensing, regulation and charging at TfL. "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," she added.

Uber now has 21 days to appeal the decision and will be able to continue to operate during that time.

The appeal process is likely to span several months, although the eventual decision is likely to be the final say in a long-running dispute.

"TfL's decision not to renew Uber's licence in London is extraordinary and wrong, and we will appeal," said Jamie Heywood, regional general manager for northern and eastern Europe at Uber, speaking to IT Pro.

"We have fundamentally changed our business over the last two years and are setting the standard on safety," he added. "TfL found us to be a fit and proper operator just two months ago, and we continue to go above and beyond.

"On behalf of the 3.5 million riders and 45,000 licensed drivers who depend on Uber in London, we will continue to operate as normal and will do everything we can to work with TfL to resolve this situation."

To remedy the issue regarding driver identification, the company has carried out an audit of every one of its London drivers and will soon introduce a "facial matching" system which it believes is "a first in London taxi and private hire", the company said.

Gartner senior research director Pedro Pacheco told IT Pro that although the decision has been framed as a setback for Uber, we should instead view it as a win for passenger safety.

"This decision shows the growing concerns regulators have about cybersecurity in several areas of mobility," said Pacheco. "We should see it as a trend that could contribute to making passengers less exposed to risk when using new mobility services".

"The fact this situation is happening in London creates a lot of visibility. As such, I believe other cities taking steps to regulate new mobility models will analyse this point and deliberate accordingly on the legislative side."

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