Transport for London made Uber promise to verify drivers’ identities and ensure their documents are genuine in exchange for a temporary licence to operate, in a deal that drew an incredulous response from the trade body for black-cab drivers.
The ride-hailing firm was granted a two-month extension to its licence in September after TfL refused to issue it with a full permit to operate in the capital amid concerns over the company’s attitude towards the safety of passengers.
The temporary extension came with several new conditions attached, according to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
One condition, headlined “driver identity”, demands that the company put in place systems to ensure that any drivers using the app are licensed by TfL and registered with Uber. TfL asked for the pledge after a case in which a woman in Leeds was raped by a man using his brother’s login details to drive an Uber, which is not permitted by the app.
Among other new conditions is a requirement that Uber ensure that drivers don’t use “f raudulent” documents for their licence or insurance.
In a letter to TfL, seen by the Guardian, the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), which represents black-cab drivers in London, said it was “extraordinary” that such conditions needed to be imposed in the first place.
“It should go without saying that London private hire vehicle operators … should have robust policies and procedures in place to ensure that drivers are who they say they are, and that they have the requisite valid licences and insurances in place,” lawyers for the LTDA wrote.
“It is extraordinary that [Uber] needs to be told to undertake appropriate checks to verify that documentation provided by drivers is legitimate and to notify TfL where potentially fraudulent documentation is submitted.”
They said the content of the conditions fuelled concerns that Uber’s enthusiasm for innovation was “not matched by any corresponding interest in dealing with the public safety pitfalls such innovation causes”.
Uber said it had made “significant changes” to its business over the past two years, amid mounting concern about the risks that its business model poses to passengers.
“This includes launching new safety features for riders, introducing better protections for licensed drivers and we’ve improved our corporate governance and compliance,” said a spokesperson.
A TfL spokesperson said: “We have granted a licence to Uber London Limited to operate for two months while we request additional material from them and will consider that information as part of any future licensing decision.
“As with other operators, we have attached a number of conditions to Uber London Limited’s licence, which we consider necessary and appropriate to ensure passenger safety and security.”
The ride-hailing app is expected to seek a permanent licence or another extension at the end of the two-month period.