Uber spared from London ban despite ‘historical failings’

The ride-hailing giant has been granted a new licence to work in the capital, nearly a year after TfL rejected its application over safety concerns.

It ends uncertainty for the 45,000 drivers who use the taxi app in London.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court said Uber was now a “fit and proper” operator “despite historical failings”.

One of the main concerns raised by TfL was a flaw in Uber’s system that allowed unauthorised people to upload their photographs to legitimate drivers’ accounts, which then allowed them to pick up passengers.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that 24 drivers shared their accounts with 20 others which led to 14,788 rides.

Uber’s regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, Jamie Heywood, said: “It was not what we would do now. It was inadequate, we could have done better.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said TfL was “absolutely right” not to renew Uber licence last year but acknowledged the company had “made improvements”.

However, he added: “I can assure Londoners that TfL will continue to closely monitor Uber and will not hesitate to take swift action should they fail to meet the strict standards required to protect passengers.”

‘Match and correct’

Deputy chief Justice of the Peace Tan Ikram mentioned he took Uber’s “track-record of regulation breaches” into consideration however mentioned it had made efforts to handle failings and had improved requirements.

“Regardless of their historic failings, I discover them, now, to be a match and correct individual to carry a London PHV [private hire vehicle] operator’s licence,” he mentioned.

The decide mentioned Uber “doesn’t have an ideal report nevertheless it has been an bettering image”.

“The check as as to whether [Uber] are a ‘match and correct individual’ doesn’t require perfection. I’m happy that they’re doing what an inexpensive enterprise of their sector may very well be anticipated to do, maybe much more.”

The brand new licence will run for 18 months, mentioned the decide. It’s not clear but if any situations have been imposed.

Uber’s Mr Heywood mentioned: “This determination is a recognition of Uber’s dedication to security and we’ll proceed to work constructively with TfL.”

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TfL initially refused to resume Uber’s licence in September 2017. The corporate then gained a 15-month licence by a decide in June 2018 after taking the case to court docket.

Uber was granted a two-month extension to its licence in September final yr, however in November TfL decided not to grant it a new licence. On the time, TfL mentioned it had “recognized a sample of failures by the corporate together with a number of breaches that positioned passengers and their security in danger”.

Uber appealed towards the choice and was allowed to maintain working all through the method.

Enterprise marketing campaign group London First mentioned Monday’s determination was “excellent news for thousands and thousands of Londoners and guests who depend on Uber to get across the capital”.

Nonetheless, the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Affiliation mentioned it was a “catastrophe for London”.

“Uber has demonstrated time and time once more that it merely cannot be trusted to place the protection of Londoners, its drivers and different highway customers above revenue,” it mentioned. “Sadly, evidently Uber is simply too large to manage successfully however too large to fail.”

Workers’ rights

Uber is still awaiting a separate UK court ruling over whether its drivers should be classed as workers or self-employed.

The case, brought by two former drivers, could see Uber forced to compensate drivers across the UK for missed holiday pay, paid rest breaks and the national minimum wage.

Uber, however, says the “vast majority” of its drivers like being freelance.

The courts ruled in favour of the drivers in 2016 and Uber lost an appeal in 2018. A judgement on the firm’s final appeal to the Supreme Court is expected soon.

Want an Uber? Send a selfie proving you are wearing a mask

Uber is to roll out a selfie feature on its app so that drivers can verify some riders are wearing face masks.

It will apply to riders who have previously been reported for not wearing a mask.

The selfie scanner, to be used in the US and Canada by the end of September and other regions after that, will look for a mask-like covering over the mouth and nose.

Currently, drivers must take a mask selfie each day before starting work.

If the scanner does not detect the driver is wearing a mask they are blocked from using the app to pick up passengers.

Uber introduced a “No Mask No Ride” policy on 18 May and extended it indefinitely due to the ongoing pandemic, requiring both drivers and riders to wear a face covering at all times during a ride.

Drivers and riders are able to cancel a trip without charge if they report the other party is not wearing a mask. Failure to comply can lead to account deactivation.

Demand for ride-hailing trips fell sharply during the coronavirus lockdown, especially in the US.

In a tweet, Uber boss Dara Khosrowshahi said the move was to help protect drivers and passengers. “We’re all in this together,” he said.

‘No facial recognition’

“We definitely wanted to make sure that we are targeting this feature to riders who are maybe just coming back to the platform and maybe they’re not aware of our mask policy,” said Sachin Kansal, Uber’s senior director of product management.

Uber said the selfie feature does not use facial recognition technology, but simply detects the mask as an object on the face.

The company said it will store the selfie photos for 96 hours to settle potential disputes, but then permanently deletes them, Uber said.

Uber says it has allocated $50m (£37m) worth of masks, gloves, hand sanitiser, sprays and wipes to drivers. The company said it has distributed masks to 1.4 million drivers globally.

 

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