Uber banned in London over fake driver scandal

London: Uber has been banned in London after the regulator said it found 14,000 trips in which unauthorised drivers had used verified accounts to pick up passengers.

Transport for London issued its second ban on the ride-hailing company in as many years, declaring it had identified "several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk".

The main breach involved Uber allowing unauthorised drivers to upload their own photographs to replace those of verified drivers. In those cases, passengers were picked by up an unverified driver instead of the ones they had booked.

TfL said all 14,000 trips carried out in these circumstances were uninsured. Some of them  were carried out by unlicensed drivers. In one instance a ride was carried out by a driver whose licence had been previously revoked.

TfL said other breaches related to insurance, which led to the regulator prosecuting Uber earlier this year for causing and permitting the use of vehicles without the correct insurance policies in place.

"TfL does not have confidence that similar issues will not reoccur in the future, which has led it to conclude that the company is not fit and proper at this time," Helen Chapman from TfL said in a statement.

Jamie Heywood from Uber told London radio station LBC that it had identified in May that 43 drivers had "maliciously" abused the system.

"As soon as we noticed it, we notified TfL, we also put in place technical fixes to make sure that it couldn't happen again," he said.

"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," Heywood said.

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The company said banning the entire service was wrong and that it would appeal. Uber can continue to operate as normal while the appeal takes place.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, said he supported TfL's decision.

"I know this decision may be unpopular with Uber users but their safety is the paramount concern," Khan said.

"There is undoubtedly a place for innovative companies in London - in fact we are home to some of the best in the world. But it is essential that companies play by the rules to keep their customers safe."

But Shaun Bailey, the Conservative's mayoral candidate said London's reputation as a city open for business had taken a hammer blow.

"Sadiq Khan has had two years to come up with a clear policy on ride hailing that both respects London's iconic black cab trade and meets Londoners' needs and he hasn't delivered, Bailey said of the Labour mayor.

"Today's ban is an admission of failure on regulation and will lead to job losses for tens of thousands of Londoners from mostly black and minority and ethnic communities."

Uber, which has faced a fierce campaign from drivers of London's black cabs, and TfL have been locked in a protracted legal battle since the authorities first attempted to ban the company in 2017.

The chief magistrate granted Uber a conditional private hire operator's licence that expired in September. TfL granted it a two-month licence while it investigated safety breaches.

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