Transport for London (TfL) has decided against relicensing private hire app firm Uber. The Capital’s regulator declared that the operators of the taxi app were not "fit and proper" due to repeated safety failures. The firm originally had its licence renewal application turned down in 2017 but has subsequently been granted two extensions.
The ruling is a serious blow to Uber as it's one of their top 5 global markets. It claims to have up to 45,000 drivers registered on the app within the region.
Despite addressing some of the issues that were originally highlighted when their licence application was first declined the regulator stated that they had, “Identified a pattern of failures by the company including several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk.”
A key issue was that “A change to Uber’s systems allowed unauthorised drivers to upload their photos to other Uber driver accounts. This allowed them to pick up passengers as though they were the booked driver, which occurred in at least 14,000 trips - putting passenger safety and security at risk.”
Therefore, “TfL does not have confidence that similar issues will not reoccur in the future, which has led it to conclude that the company is not fit and proper at this time.
Uber will appeal and can continue to operate during that process. However, it’s likely that users of the app will have concerns regarding the safeguards and protections that are in place. As a specialist taxi and private hire insurance provider we’ve provided some expert insight into what the implications of these breaches in protocol might have been.
We also analyse whether Uber can offer additional protections to their passengers from an insurance perspective.
What would have happened to the fake Uber driver's passengers had they been injured as a result of a road traffic accident whilst on the journey?
If the vehicle wasn’t insured at all (eg driver not insured and the vehicle not insured), then the MIB (Motor Insurance Bureau) would be involved. The claimants are likely to receive compensation. However the process would be more long winded than if the vehicle or driver had a policy in place.
If the vehicle was insured but for the wrong driver, then the insurer of the vehicle has an obligation to pay any third-party injuries or damages. Then they could look to seek their monies back from the policyholder and / or the MIB compensation scheme.
Would any passengers have received compensation if they were attacked by the imposter?
There could be a criminal prosecution, of course, which would be dealt with by the courts. Any compensation would be arranged by the judicial system.
What more could Uber do to demonstrate to a magistrate that they take TfL's concerns over passenger safety seriously?
Uber would argue that they actually highlighted the issue to TfL themselves as part of their desire to demonstrate a new open and transparent mode of operating. However, that is unlikely to allay concerns regarding passenger safety resulting from the further risk of unlicensed and uninsured drivers.
In terms of insurance, they could invest in a contingency motor policy that would be a fallback provision. It would come into force should an incident occur whilst a journey on their platform was taking place but for whatever reason the vehicle was uninsured. It would remove the need for the MIB to become involved.
Who are the possible winners from the ruling?
Well, there will be a whole host of taxi app operators hoping to capitalise on Uber’s struggles in the capital. Bolt, Kapten, ViaVan and soon Ola. That’s not to mention more traditional local service providers and the London black cab trade.
Bolt, no pun intended, were quick out the blocks in their efforts to attract not only new passengers but additional drivers to their rostrum. They posted the below image to demonstrate the surge in earnings that their drivers benefitted from shortly after the news regarding the American firm was announced.
The app’s users in London, as well as the private hire and taxi industry, will have to wait and see if this is a permanent state of affairs or whether their appeal will be successful? Only time will tell!