A resentful TfL denies Uber a new operator Licence

Uber's Licence revoked by TfL

TfL has finally decided to not renew Uber’s operator Licence. If this latter is going to appeal this decision, the situation remains ludicrous as much because of the reasons mentioned as because of the inaccuracies told by different media and other actors on this story.

The reasons invoked by TfL are the following:

“A key issue identified was that a change to Uber’s systems allowed unauthorised drivers to upload their photos to other Uber drivers accounts. This allowed them to pick up passengers as though they were the booked driver, which occured in at least 14,000 trips – putting passengers safety and security at risk.”

If Uber is not without criticism in its way of operating in London, there are reasons to be skeptical about this statement.

We should be weary of numbers

First, Uber has got 3.5 million users in London. If we compare this to the 14,000 figure and assuming that every trip was for one unique user, it only represents 0.004% of users.

Then, we do not know whether these 0.004% of users have really been in a situation in which drivers were complete strangers. Indeed, we have no idea whether these 14,000 trips represent investigated and proven cases or if it is only about riders complaints or a mix of both. Here again, Tfl does not get into any details.

These 14,000 trip involve 43 drivers according to Uber and TfL. The UK and Northern Europe Uber Chief, Jamie Heywood, stated that from these 43, only a handful were actually fraudulently using the app. That confirms that a lot of these drivers have not proven to be illegally using the app. But even if we take the whole 43 figure, that represents only 0.00095% of the 45,000 drivers working with the Californian Rideshare company.

Uber is targetted but what about the others?

Uber has changed the way Private Hire rides are booked and completed. It changed the game by the way it did it. By using an app, and by the expanding dimension it took all over London. It was a game changer that made the firm different to anything seen before. However, about riders safety standards, other operators are no different.

If we had to dig into Bolt, Kapten or any other Rideshare operator activities, we would be able to find stories similar to this. The same applies to smaller mini cab operators. Let’s apply the same proportion to a small operator. If a small operator with a fleet of 30 drivers had 0.00095% of them involved in fraudulent activities, that would affect one driver every few years. Nothing shocking here. Unless you are called Uber, you are bigger and you have many more drivers.

Uber’s licence is revoked, what does that mean for drivers?

In really, there is not much of a change. The Uber app is still running and will be until all ways of appeal have been used by Uber. The first ban occured in September 2017. Uber appealed and could carry on operating until the favourable appeal decision in June 2018, nine months after TfL’s first decision. So, we will probably end up in a same situation here. Uber has got 21 days to make an appeal and the court decision will certainly happen several months after.

Uber is also probably going to try to implement facial recognition technology in order to address TfL’s concerns. As the decision is already taken, that would only weight in before an appeal court judge.

The reality is that we cannot stop people, individuals, here an extreme minority of drivers from doing what they intend to do. Things that they would probably do in other sectors of the society. We often hear stories of people caught cheating all sort of benefits from the government. Who should be blamed first? These people that did it and that we should sanction accordingly or the government for allowing it to happen despite checks in place?

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