Uber Loses London License over Driver Scam Epidemic

The Uber logo is displayed on a mobile phone in this picture illustration taken November 25, 2019. (Hannah McKay/Reuters)

Uber’s license to operate in London — a top-five market for the ride-sharing firm — will not be renewed after regulators found at least 14,000 scammed trips over the last year, according to an announcement Monday.

Transport for London (TfL) found a “pattern of failures” which led to risks in passenger safety and security, after unlicensed and uninsured drivers used a loophole in Uber’s software to steal rides from authorized vendors.

“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 director Helen Chapman said.

Regulators found 14,000 cases since late 2018 in which uninsured drivers used their own photo on another driver’s account to pick up an already-confirmed ride. Two of the 43 drivers involved were also unlicensed, and at least one ride involved a driver whose license had already been revoked by TfL.

Uber revealed the glitch this summer, and fixed the software in October, but TfL said it still lacked confidence in the firm’s ability to ensure safety.

“If not that loophole, a different loophole might be exploited again,” a TfL spokesman said.

Uber said it would appeal the “extraordinary and wrong” decision. While the appeal is ongoing, the company will continue to operate in London, a market which includes 3.5 million riders and 45,000 licensed drivers. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi took to Twitter to protest the decision.

London mayor Sadiq Khan said in a statement that he supported the decision.

“I know this decision may be unpopular with Uber users, but their safety is the paramount concern. Regulations are there to keep Londoners safe,” Khan’s statement reads.

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