back to article Taxi for Uber: Ride-hailing app giant stripped of licence to operate in London

Transport for London has ruled that Uber is not fit to run a minicab business in the UK capital. The authority detailed a string of security, insurance and safety failures by the taxi hailing app biz which means it will not get a new private operator's licence. Uber got a temporary two-month licence in September while TfL …

  1. DavCrav Silver badge

    "Uber told the BBC the decision was extraordinary and wrong and it would appeal."

    According to the Guardian, one of the drivers you allowed had a conviction for kiddie porn. The only thing extraordinary about this is that you keep on getting so many chances.

    1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      What's so terribly bad about having a driver who once downloaded some kidyporn? Uber has a rule that they won't carry unaccompanied people under the age of 18, so I doubt many kids are hailing Uber cabs as they will get rejected 99 times out of 100. Not that liking underage porn means that the person is all that likely to do anything bad in real life. People who like horror films are unlikely to pose a risk of suddenly going on a rampage with a chain saw.

      1. The Last Elephant

        If they've downloaded child pornography, they HAVE done something bad in real life, you moron.

        1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Since when is pornograph real life?

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Somebody trying to defend pedos on the Register.

        Sad day.

        Decent people don’t want peadophiles anywhere near them. In any circumstances.

        1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Congratulations on the knee-jerk reaction. Now try looking at things with a little more perspective and some fact-based evidence. The facts show that vanishingly few people who have been convicted only of having downloaded indecent images of children (which includes cartoon drawings and non-sexual photos of 17 year olds) are involved in any hands-on offenses involving children.

      3. Roland6 Silver badge

        >Uber has a rule that they won't carry unaccompanied people under the age of 18, so I doubt many kids are hailing Uber cabs as they will get rejected 99 times out of 100.

        Given the reason Uber is being refused a licence because its understanding of rules and their implementation is deeply flawed, this is a totally flawed line of reasoning.

        Uber having a rule doesn't mean it is actually abided by the "self-employed" drivers.

        Uber may have a rule, but is there evidence that Uber is policing this and that drivers are enforced (at the 98+%) it ie. on turning up to pick up a lift, refuse the fare.

        How many teenagers/young adults have been asked to provide proof of age?

        I suspect there is plenty of evidence of U18's using Uber, just not officially recorded...

      4. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Uber has a rule that they won't carry unaccompanied people under the age of 18

        And you really think that they will abide by their own rules? Given their longstanding habit of flouting any rules that they feel like (including some legal ones) I have no confidence that they will actually comply with their own (unenforced) internal rules.

  2. markr555

    Couldn't have happened to a nicer company.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      They should be overjoyed by the disruption.

      1. markr555

        Headline should surely be "Ride-share for Uber"?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re. Couldn't have happened to a nicer company.

      well, I could find a few to be a good match, amazon for starters, and then the usual suspects, google, facebook, etc.

      p.s. amazon, cause they caught me with amazon prime AGAIN, while making the usual purchase, and then, I was NOT able to find how to cancel, despite having gone through the usual links showing how to do it. Fortunately, their customer service sorted it out via chat in about, literally, 20 seconds what had taken me about 10 min to fail to find (and I had tried _really_ hard).

      1. BrownishMonstr Bronze badge

        Re: re. Couldn't have happened to a nicer company.

        Well, at least their customer services isn't all that bad.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: re. Couldn't have happened to a nicer company.

        > cause they caught me with amazon prime AGAIN

        Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

      3. EnviableOne Silver badge

        Re: re. Couldn't have happened to a nicer company.

        or like how they have trued to renew my prime with every payment method i have ever used with them, because the one i used last year expired.

    3. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      "

      Couldn't have happened to a nicer company.

      "

      Does that also apply to 4500 drivers who will be out of work?

  3. Blockchain commentard Silver badge

    Passenger safety is our priority. This is from both TfL and Uber. It's a pity one of them has standards that are woefully shocking in their bid to make money. Guess which one.

    1. macjules Silver badge

      "Passenger safety is not our priority"

      FTFY

      ©2019 Über, Boeing et al

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        re. "Passenger safety is not our priority"

        it kind of puzzles me people keep falling for this bullshit how "our customers are our priority", etc, etc. After all, whatever business, their priority is THEIR PROFITS, and if they claim otherwise, they lie.

        1. BrownishMonstr Bronze badge

          Re: re. "Passenger safety is not our priority"

          our customers are our priority

          Well, they aren't completely wrong. Without customer, no profits.

          1. Psmo Bronze badge

            Re: re. "Passenger safety is not our priority"

            Err... aren't they still running at a loss?

            Shirley fewer rides = less money spent 'disrupting'?

        2. rskurat

          Re: re. "Passenger safety is not our priority"

          How do you know a corporation is lying? They issue a statement.

        3. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: re. "Passenger safety is not our priority"

          "it kind of puzzles me people keep falling for this bullshit"

          Who's falling for it? People keep investing in them because they see other people doing it and think they're going to make money, eventually. People keep using Uber because it's easy and convenient.

          At the end of the day, if you withhold your money from every scummy company in existence, you pretty much have to retire from modern society, unfortunately.

        4. Mike Friedman

          Re: re. "Passenger safety is not our priority"

          What profits? Uber loses money hand over fist, and has no roadmap to reaching profitability. There are two routes, raise prices or squeeze drivers. They’ve squeezed drivers hard. Only one way to go now.

          1. EnviableOne Silver badge

            Re: re. "Passenger safety is not our priority"

            nah, they are banking profitavility on getting rid of those expensive, rulebreaking drivers

    2. Persona Bronze badge

      I'm guessing you meant the one that employed John Worboys?

      1. Insert sadsack pun here

        TfL doesn't employ any taxi drivers.

      2. DavCrav Silver badge

        "I'm guessing you meant the one that employed John Worboys?"

        You mean he was still employed after his conviction? Wow.

        Or not.

    3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Passenger safety is our priority

      Especially them safely moving money into our accounts. Other than that, we don't care because, like Ford, we find it easier to pay damages rather than actually make things safe beforehand.

  4. Avatar of They
    Thumb Up

    Lets hope.

    Other cities follow suit.

    1. james_smith Bronze badge

      Re: Lets hope.

      Uber are banned from trading completely in Turkey. Although the reason is nothing to do with safety, rather it's Erdoğan trying to get taxi drivers to vote for his party.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At least there's a good alternative which is transparent, easy to use with its own app that you can summon at the touch of a button.

    oh...

    oh!

    1. markr555

      Pretty sure there are lots of genuine TAXI firms in London that have apps.

      1. BigAndos

        There are but Uber has the best combination of price/coverage/lack of randomly refusing certain destinations. It also works internationally and really helps get over the language barrier when travelling.

        Many minicab firms only pick up within certain areas around their office, apart from Addison Lee who charge an arm and a leg.

        Black taxi availability is highly variable outside of the centre especially late at night, and then you run into "not going to xyz/south of the river this time of night mate". Their fares get expensive very quickly, although over short journeys they actually compare well to Uber especially as the drivers aren't just mindlessly following an app and can pick the best route.

        Uber are a reprehensible company but they have a fantastic product. I just wish they charged a bit more but invested it into safety and driver welfare.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge
          FAIL

          A fantastic product that seems to give too many passengers sore nether regions?

        2. Charlie Clark Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Uber are a reprehensible company but they have a fantastic product. I just wish they charged a bit more but invested it into safety and driver welfare.

          You are Clayton Christensen and I claim my £5

          Uber's "product" is all about underpaying drivers.

          1. hnwombat
            Holmes

            Actually, it's not ALL about underpaying drivers. It's about 50/50 that and ignoring consumer protection laws.

        3. macjules Silver badge
          Coat

          I thought London blacks cabs didn't have apps .. just mis'apps. As in, "Sorry for the mis'ap mate, I 'ad to go via Croydon to get to 'eathrow" *

          * attempt at East London accent, NOT an Apple keyboard error.

        4. katrinab Silver badge

          Lots of local minicab firms use MinicabIT. Try that, it will find firms that operate in your area, and give you a selection of quotes. There are other apps available.

        5. G.Y.

          re: "not going to xyz"

          I am sure Uber would be happy to collect complaints about such, forward to TfL, and keep nagging.

        6. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Uber are a reprehensible company but they have a fantastic product

          As long as you don't mind a 'product' that relies on an everlasting churn of unchecked drivers who are often operating at below minimum-wage levels and backed by a company with ethics that make the tobacco companies look relatively benign?

          Are you happy to buy clothes made in far-East sweatshops? Because Uber are the taxi equivalent.

      2. Mike 137 Bronze badge

        Why do you need an app?

        What's wrong with phoning a known and trusted licensed cab company for a cab and actually talking to someone, like we've done for decades? Your smart phone is also a phone.

        This fantasy that if there isn't an app for it you can't do it is pure nonsense, promulgated by the techno-behemoths that want to own us.

        1. EnviableOne Silver badge

          Re: Why do you need an app?

          but my local firm have replaced the nice operators with an impenatrable IVR, that states your last five destinations and pickups and hangs up on you if you want something different.

          Their App on the other hand is at least as good as the above mentioned, and doesent suffer from 3.4x surge pricing, as rates are regulated by the council

    2. DavCrav Silver badge

      "At least there's a good alternative which is transparent, easy to use with its own app that you can summon at the touch of a button."

      Yes, their security was very transparent.

      1. Fred Dibnah Silver badge

        In London there are alternatives which don't require an app at all:

        Buses

        Tube trains / overground trains

        And for shorter journeys: Walking

        1. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

          Boris bikes? Should in principle be quickest for many journeys.

          Once upon a time I tried[1] to figure out how to take one out. Couldn't see any lights on them: do I need to bring my own? And it wasn't entirely clear how to pay. Nor what happens if I get one out and it turns out to have a problem.

          [1] OK, not very hard. It was dark and cold at the time, and in reality I'd left just enough time to walk.

          1. EnviableOne Silver badge

            you need an App for that ...

    3. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

      There is. It's called "FREE NOW"*, and it connects to the nearest taxi firm.

      But maybe that hasn't launched in Britain yet?

      * Yes, the name is really bad. Even something terrible like "taaxi" would have been better...

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        It is indeed. Available in London, 7 other cities, and one town.

        https://free-now.com/uk/passenger/europe/

      2. MatthewSt

        It's the new name for MyTaxi (which was the new name for Hailo). 2 re-brands in 2 years...! There's also Gett which makes use of black cabs. They're probably all as bad as each other really

    4. Len
      Go

      I switched from Uber to Bolt some time ago.

      I had already switched from Uber to Bolt some time ago as I didn't feel comfortable with my money going to Uber. According to the drivers they get to take a bigger cut of the fare home and they feel less pressure/like a machine than with Uber.

      Also, as they are in fierce competition they throw discounts and affiliate links around like there's no tomorrow. I switched to Bolt in July and haven't been without a discount since. 5% here, 10% there, affiliate links so getting someone else signed up gets you a free ride etc. etc.

      Don't like Bolt? You can always try Kapten. I've never tried them myself but many drivers I speak ride for all three companies so just have all three apps open.

      1. james_smith Bronze badge

        Re: I switched from Uber to Bolt some time ago.

        'Er indoors uses Kapten and Bolt. She often chats to the drivers as many are also Turkish expats, and they much prefer those apps to Uber.

    5. JohnFen Silver badge

      I'm in the US, but in my city, there are multiple such alternatives -- they're called taxis. Uber offers literally nothing they don't, except for the artificially low prices.

      1. Keven E

        Unfortunately, Uber in Chitown has cut into and therefore reduced the number of cabs freely hailable on city streets.... very noticeable to me who ain't touching Uber with an 11 foot app... cab drivers say about 50%.

        Of course, the previous Mayor/brother? is a big investor (IIRC)... and the police were told to not give Uber drivers the "time of day". To bad, based on how I see moving violations daily (not just illegal but just plain stupid or dangerous)... we coulda cut into the city budget deficit!.

        I truly enjoy the freedom/chaos of a random cab hail.

    6. Insert sadsack pun here

      There are loads of minicab and taxi apps apart from Uber e.g. Bolt, Wheely, Gett. My local minicab office also has its own app (presumably bought in as a white label product rather than designed in the arch under the train station).

  6. simonlb Silver badge
    Meh

    'there remained concerns that systems were so easily manipulated'

    Well it's not like they haven't had enough proper funding to enable them to make their systems secure from this sort of thing is it? Oh, wait...

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Re: 'there remained concerns that systems were so easily manipulated'

      I wondered why they did not include AFR into their app and simply instruct the drivers to take a selfie when instructed to do so at random times. I am pretty sure that they could do that.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: 'there remained concerns that systems were so easily manipulated'

        simply instruct the drivers to take a selfie when instructed

        Because that would imply they would need extra admin staff[1] to check that the selfies matched the driver picture. And hiring extra people would put them even further into debit on their financals.

        [1] Because, as we all know, 'AI'[2] really, really isn't good enough to do a proper job.

        [2] AKA 'rules matching logic, trained by random sample that usually isn't that random'

  7. quattroprorocked

    Most operators

    Simply require that drivers visit their office with all their papers, and log them accordingly. Driver docs as USC? Seriously?

    Of course UBER really don't want to have to get drivers to come to the office. Tough.

  8. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    Rather OT, but am I alone in finding the picture above this article creepy?

    The two women seem to be pretending to hail a cab, but they aren't making a serious effort to be credible. They're looking away from the traffic on their side of the road, so they're presumably trying to flag down a cab on the opposite side, in which case they need to wave harder. Perhaps the one who's hardly waving at all should stick two fingers in her mouth and whistle?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I haven't lived in London since the 70s, will black cab drivers still not pick these up because one is black?

      Or has Brexit changed all that ?

      1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

        Tired Myth

        In my many years in London, about half my girlfriends were black.

        They could hail black cabs more easily than I could (white male).

        And they all routinely used them.

    2. A K Stiles Silver badge
      Coat

      Also, neither of them is wearing a trail of chilli sauce from a half eaten kebab down their front, and they're both apparently still standing on the pavement rather than staggering into the road, which seems to be the approved method of stopping taxis? Also, neither of them has a decent coat ->, so I'm guessing this is Newcastle?

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Also, neither of them has a decent coat ->, so I'm guessing this is Newcastle?

        Not bloody likely. In Newcaste the minis-skirts are shorter…

      2. NXM

        Newcastle

        "so I'm guessing this Newcastle"

        If they had less on /and/ it was snowing, maybe. I lived in Newcastle and the Bigg Market on weekend evenings was like Beirut, only covered in snow and powered by nuclear-strength curry and lorryloads of cheap lager.

        Abdul Latif, who owned a curry house there, bought a title to become Lord Harpole of the Rupali.

        Great times.

        1. Beavis-101

          Re: Newcastle

          "curry house there" - curry hell. It was free if you could eat it all, not many could as it was made with South America [red hot] chilli peppers!

          Its the oppose in Newcastle as the black cabs overcharge and really don't know the area very well. Private hire is better. I suspect, but don't know, it will be a similar situation with Uber in the toon.

    3. Grikath
      Trollface

      This may be because the traffic in the obvious-stock-photo is driving on the correct side of the road, and the ladies are indeed looking towards traffic from where they're standing....

      Although the photo is admittedly confusing, because from the reflections on the street one would conclude the weather in the photo is definitely British.. How the ladies stayed dry and well-coiffed is another Great Mystery..

      1. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

        Means the picture is phoney even by Reg standards.

        Shirley the idea that they're hailing a cab comes purely by association with the subject of the article?

        1. Claverhouse Silver badge

          Not at all.

          I give you Able Cabs in Aylesbury.

          https://www.ablecabsaylesbury.co.uk/longdistancetaxis

          Home Counties to the max.

  9. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge
    Coat

    So does that mean than in London Uber is over?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ja ja, Uber ist über...

      1. TomPhan

        Lieben heisst lieben

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Unterground Uberground wombling free

      Ze Wombles von Wimbledon Common are we.

      [with suitable apologies to any German readers

    3. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Nah they will appeal and then repeat until they get bored.

  10. Moosh

    Uber's response

    They claim to have made improvements when they say the claims are wrong; but the claim is that while they have improved, they haven't improved anywhere near enough. Their "rebuttal" is a complete joke.

    Again, the real issue has and always will be that uber makes money by having an incredibly small bureaucratic overhead; they are as involved as they absolutely must be, and nothing more. The level of engagement actually required of the company is to the extent that it will severely hurt their bottom line, and they will do everything in their power to remain only distantly involved outside of actual app maintenance.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Uber's response

      Cost of lawyers vs cost of doing it right in the first place...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cost of lawyers

        perhaps they operate the same "disruptive" business approach to their own legal representation as they do towards their, what do they call all those hapless drivers, "valuable business partners"?

    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Uber's response

      Uber makes money

      It really doesn't.

      It subsidises its transport operations on the assumption that it can (a) eliminate competition and (b) eliminate human drivers so that it can substantially raise its margins before its investment capital is used up.

      1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge
        Alert

        Re: "Uber makes money" It really doesn't.

        Good heavens, Uber is becoming more profitable!

        Historically, it had to spend over $1.50 to earn $1.

        To look at it another way: it spent its entire revenue then made a further loss of 50% of that turnover.

        But these latest figures show a triumph of Uber's management team!

        Now they're only spending $1.30 to earn $1.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: "Uber makes money" It really doesn't.

          Now they're only spending $1.30 to earn $1

          Yet there are still enough VC idiots to keep them going. Valuable proof that possession of vast amounts of cash != common sense..

          1. james_smith Bronze badge

            Re: "Uber makes money" It really doesn't.

            Pyramid scheme. Big VC buys in early then sells on their interest in future profits to smaller mugs ias the hype takes off. When the penny drops and the firm can't get any more funding the big boys are long gone, leaving the small boys out of pocket.

  11. jonathan keith Silver badge

    I can only think that somehow, through some dark and malign witchcraft, Uber London is actually a cat. It's the only explanation I can think of for them still being here after so many terminal fuck-ups.

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      You underestimate the power of billions of dollars. Which I'm sure is all part of the plan.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Uber London is actually a cat

      How very dare you! Even a cat wouldn't stoop to those depths - mainly because it would involve serious effort on their part..

      (Even wild cats are ambush predators - none of yer labourious hunter-chasing!)

  12. TRT Silver badge

    No mention of...

    Greyball in this article. Although the TfL statement today doesn't mention this, other news outlets have linked that particular activity with this.

    1. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: No mention of...

      Has there ever been any evidence of them using Greyball in London though?

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: No mention of...

        I haven't been able to find the original, official, statement about it from Uber, but one news agency claims Uber said "Greyball has never been used IN THAT FASHION in London", and others have said simply that it has never been used in London. It, or rather Uber's statement about the technology, was cited by TfL in 2017 for withdrawing their licence.

        I don't know why I received a down vote... I thought if anyone would be in the position to clarify that association, it would be El Reg!

    2. Claverhouse Silver badge

      Re: No mention of...

      Never having used Uber, I was unfamiliar with this, but having read the wiki, I can only say that I can't see much wickedness in this device, and that in their shoes I would probably do the same.

      Uber claimed that it used Greyball to deny service to individuals suspected of violating the company's terms of services, such as people seeking to harm Uber drivers, disrupt Uber operations, or carry out law enforcement actions against Uber drivers.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greyball

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: No mention of...

        In my city, Uber was using Greyball in order to evade inspectors and regulators, which is a crime.

      2. TRT Silver badge

        Re: No mention of...

        You said it yourself... denying law enforcement actions against drivers.

  13. codejunky Silver badge

    Hmm

    I cant say I am shocked they lost their license for such serious mistakes.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How times change

    I think I recall stories from a while back when TfL first wanted to revoke Uber's licence. A lot of the commentards were actually quite defensive of Uber - saying that the licence revocation was because of lobbying by the black cab drivers who wanted to avoid Uber weakening their near-monopoly.

    Strange to read the comments today which generally seem to be in favour of the ban, and people hapy to see Uber getting a bit of a kicking because of their business practices.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: How times change

      To be fair to Uber, they were very popular early on, as their app was easy to use and there are so many artificial restrictions on city taxi schemes that they're alwways either expensive or there aren't enough of them. Or often both. So a bit of competition cutting through the regulatory capture might improve things. Whereas minicab firms were too small and under-funded to have fancy apps - and even ones that did aren't going to be universal.

      However, since then, more news has come out about what Uber get up to. And they're basically indefensible.

    2. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: How times change

      @AC

      I am one of those. And I still agree with my opinion supporting them then and my opinion against them now. They are a technology company who managed to introduce innovation in what was very much a protected (protectionist) market. That is not a crime. Serious security flaws allowing people to impersonate others in the service industry seems reasonable grounds to deny permission to keep working there.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: How times change

        "That is not a crime."

        True, but in the course of doing that, they have intentionally committed crimes.

  15. Tilda Rice

    Black cab drivers, well known for being the "salt of the earth".

    Someone should have told John Worboys. Do Black Cab drivers really go through any greater scrutiny?

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Flame

      Irrelevant! Old ways good! New ways bad!

    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

      The issue here isn't the scrutiny that the legitimate drivers got - it's largely the same for taxi and private hire drivers. What has happened here is that a legitimate driver has been impersonated by someone who does not possess a PHV licence.

      PHV drivers are supposed to wear a badge with their photo and identity on it, but Uber appears to have allowed drivers to change their in-app photograph to that of a different person, making it appear to the passenger that the driver is legitimate.

      I would imagine that a certain amount of impersonation is not uncommon (it's more economic to recoup the cost of leasing a vehicle and insuring it if it's generating revenue over 24 hours), but Uber's system seems to have facilitated it.

    3. EnviableOne Silver badge

      Yes, Worboys will never drive another cab, his licence has been revoked, but could just sign-up for another uber account as mentioned in the article, or take over another driver's by replacing his picture.

  16. peeberry

    The safety excuse is bunk

    BBC more or less investigated this two years ago, Uber drivers were responsible for 1/3 of trips in London yet only 1/5 of sexual assaults.

    Uber report start about 1.5 minutes in:

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05hm6fr

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Insecure non-employees 'not' working for robber barons

    Modern slavery.

    I'd rather pay someone more to help them earn a proper income.

    Crazy, I know.

  18. Insert sadsack pun here

    This is good news for consumers - not just from a safety perspective, but also because it will shatter Uber's monopoly in one of the biggest European markets. If Uber is banned and binned, it will open the door for competitors like Bolt, Ola, Kaptan, Wheely, Careem, Gett and others. Equally, regulators should find it easier to regulate multiple weak companies than one behemoth.

    The Uber bubble is going to burst. You can't carry on losing money on every ride forever, and there's no way for Uber to make money other than total domination of the market, which is both impossible for them and bad for us. The Uber app was great - it's time to move on to other providers.

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