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    Monday, November 25, 2019

    Uber Stripped of License in London Over Safety Concerns

    Uber's license to operate in London was ordered stripped Monday by the city's transport regulator, which cited a "pattern of failures" that "placed passenger safety and security at risk."
    Transport for London on Monday accused Uber of a “pattern of failures” and several regulatory breaches that had put “passenger safety and security at risk”.

    In one example cited by TfL, a driver had continued to be able to use the Uber app after his private hire license had been revoked after he had been cautioned for distributing indecent images of children.

    In late 2018 and early 2019, TfL said that more than 14,000 Uber rides were carried out by at least 43 drivers who exploited a loophole in Uber’s systems that allowed them to upload their photos to another driver’s account.

    TfL only became aware of the most recent example of the identity fraud earlier this month. After an independent review by Cognizant, a tech consultancy, TfL said it lacked confidence in Uber’s ability to prevent a repeat of the problem.

    TfL also found that a number of drivers who had been dismissed or suspended by Uber were able to work using new accounts. The agency said it was a “concern that Uber’s systems seem to have been comparatively easily manipulated”, adding that similar issues had not been identified at other private hire services operating in London.

    “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,” said Helen Chapman, director of licensing, regulation and charging at TfL.

    Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, said: “Keeping Londoners safe is my absolute number-one priority, and TfL have identified a pattern of failure by Uber that has directly put passengers’ safety at risk.”

    Uber, which has 3.5m riders and 45,000 licensed drivers in London, did not deny TfL’s accusations but called its decision “extraordinary and wrong”. It said it planned to appeal and would “continue to operate as normal” in the meantime.

    Under London’s private-hire licensing laws, Uber has 21 days to lodge an appeal with a magistrate and can continue to operate throughout the process.

    The San Francisco-based company insisted that it has “robust systems and checks in place to confirm the identity of drivers”, including conducting an audit of every London driver in the last two months, and planned to introduce a new “facial matching process” soon.

    Jamie Heywood, Uber's regional general manager for Northern & eastern Europe, said: “We have fundamentally changed our business over the past two years and are setting the standard on safety. TfL found us to be a fit and proper operator just two months ago, and we continue to go above and beyond.”

    TfL’s damning verdict on Uber’s safety record in one of its top cities will come as a blow to chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi, who has promised to “do the right thing — period”. Uber’s shares were down by more than 5 per cent in pre-market trading in New York.

    A series of scandals in 2017 led to TfL denying Uber’s London licence, a ruling that was later overturned in court. Two months ago, Uber was granted an unexpectedly short operating permit that will expire just before midnight on Monday. TfL only discovered the extent of the unauthorised rides late in the renewal process, it said on Monday, alongside other insurance-related issues.

    But the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, which represents black cab drivers, celebrated TfL’s decision, saying: “Londoners will be safer as a result.”
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