London Cements Uber Ban Over Fake Identities

Uber was declared “not fit and proper” to operate in London — the ride-hailing company’s largest European market — and now has three weeks to appeal, according to a Monday (Nov. 25) statement from Transport for London (TfL). 

London regulators refused to renew the ride-hailing company’s operating permit over safety concerns and drivers using false identities. TfL regulates taxi and private hire services in the city.

At least 14,000 trips were made by unauthorized drivers, according to TfL. “A change to Uber’s systems allowed unauthorized drivers to upload their photos to other Uber driver accounts.”

People unwittingly got into cars with drivers who were not the same as the drivers booked through the app, putting passengers’ safety at risk. In once instance, the driver behind the wheel had a revoked license.

The London issue involved 43 drivers who managed to trick the Uber app into allowing them to update their photos, according to reports.

Helen Chapman, director of licensing, regulation and charging at TfL, said in the statement that while the agency recognizes Uber’s improvement efforts, “Safety is our absolute top priority. … it is unacceptable that Uber has allowed passengers to get into minicabs with drivers who are potentially unlicensed and uninsured.”

If Uber appeals, it can continue to operate and “publicly demonstrate to a magistrate” that safety issues were eliminated.”

Fraudulent Uber drivers are not isolated to London. San Francisco, Houston and Boston have all had cases of illicit drivers, including convicted felons, Cnet reported. At times, drivers reportedly used a license and Social Security number belonging to someone else. Sometimes drivers used false identities purchased on the internet.

“For bad actors, it’s not hard to circumvent Uber’s signup process since it’s designed to get drivers onboarded as quickly as possible and with as little hassle as possible,” Harry Campbell of the blog Rideshare Guy told Cnet. “From time to time, Uber uses a ‘selfie check’ to verify the driver, but it’s not clear how accurate this method is.”

Uber claims that the flaw in its app that allowed drivers to make unauthorized trips was fixed before its recent London ban.

Former Uber drivers also say it’s not uncommon for drivers to rent their accounts out if they want a break or take a vacation.

Account sharing “is a dirty little secret” among American drivers, Bryant Greening, co-founder of LegalRideshare LLC, a Chicago personal-injury law firm that represents ridesharing drivers told The Wall Street Journal. “I don’t think this is a problem like in London, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen here.”

Uber said it had “several safeguards in place to prevent account sharing (or renting) in the way that is being advertised” online, according to the report. Uber is notified when drivers change account details like phone numbers or use several devices to log into the same account.