Transport for London (TfL) has revoked Uber’s London operating licence after identifying “a pattern of failures” that compromised passenger safety.
The transport watchdog found that unauthorised drivers exploited a loophole in Uber’s system to carry out at least 14,000 fraudulent journeys in the capital using other drivers’ accounts.
The loophole, which emerged thanks to technical changes to Uber’s system, meant that none of the journeys were insured and some were carried out by unlicensed drivers.
An assessment commissioned by TfL also exposed a further flaw in Uber’s system that allowed dismissed or suspended drivers to create new accounts and continue using the service.
In light of these issues, TfL prosecuted Uber earlier this year. The regulator said that while Uber had taken steps to improve its security, it was concerned about how easy it had been for drivers to manipulate its system.
“This pattern of regulatory breaches led TfL to commission an independent assessment of Uber’s ability to prevent incidents of this nature happening again,” the regulator said. “This work has led TfL to conclude that it currently does not have confidence that Uber has a robust system for protecting passenger safety, while managing changes to its app.”
The move is likely to surprise Uber’s executives, who have attempted to improve the company’s standing in London, one of its largest markets. The timing is particularly challenging as the firm is currently facing competition in the city from new market entrants, Bolt and Kapten.
Uber’s general manager for northern and eastern Europe, Jeremy Heywood, said the company would appeal the decision. “Over the last two months we have audited every driver in London and further strengthened our processes,” he added. “We have robust systems and checks in place to confirm the identity of drivers and will soon be introducing a new facial matching process, which we believe is a first in London taxi and private hire.”
Uber successfully overturned a ban on its London service in June last year. At the time, the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan warned the company that it “must play by the rules”. On Monday, Khan issued a statement in support of TfL’s decision, saying that although he knew the decision “may be unpopular with Uber users”, their “safety is the paramount concern”.
Uber has 21 days to launch its appeal. It can continue to operate throughout the process.