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TFL must revoke Uber cab licence

Thursday, June 18, 2015

GMB call for TFL to revoke Uber cab licence after driver as able to pick up paying customer despite having provided fake insurance papers to Uber.

Despite recent changes it is still possible to upload a fake insurance document without detection and transporting passengers without proper insurance puts them in jeopardy in the event of injury says GMB.

GMB, the union for professional drivers, has repeated the call for Transport for London to revoke UBER cab licence after a national newspaper demonstrated how a cab driver was able to pick up a paying customer despite having provided fake insurance papers to Uber. See notes to editors for copy of article in the Guardian on 12th June and GMB letter to TFL on 13th June.

Steve Garelick, GMB Branch Secretary professional drivers branch, says in the letter to TFL “I have been able to furnish yourselves with multiple instances where I was able to log on to the Uber platform and be allowed to drive with inappropriate documents such as restaurant menus and GMB application forms.

Despite recent changes to the document system it is still possible to upload a fake insurance document without detection. Transporting passengers without proper insurance cover places them in jeopardy in the event if injury due to road accidents.

It seems that despite my evidence to the contrary proving indefatigably that a driver could work without insurance this seems to have been dismissed as a misnomer.

Understandably I will now repeat my request to revoke this company’s licence.”

End

Contact: Steve Garelick 07565 456 776, or Michelle Bacon 07961 709680 or Mick Rix 07971 268343.  GMB press office 07921 289 880 or 07974 251 823.

Or email Steve.garelick@gmbdrivers.org.

Notes to editors

1 - Copy of press report published by the Guardian 12th June 2015:

Uber whistleblower exposes breach in driver-approval process

Global taxi firm’s computerised system approves fake insurance papers amid fears such exploitation by drivers may risk passenger safety

The Guardian’s Robert Booth demonstrates how a cab driver was able to pick up a paying customer despite having provided fake insurance papers to Uber

Robert Booth

Friday 12 June 2015 15.47 BST - Last modified on Saturday 13 June 2015 00.01 BST

The taxi giant Uber is reviewing its systems in the UK after an investigation raised questions about the robustness of its approval procedures for driver documents.

Drivers have claimed that as Uber expands rapidly, the system is vulnerable to cheating by those looking to save money following reductions in Uber’s fares – a claim denied by the insurgent technology firm.

The Guardian demonstrated that a driver was able to pick up a paying customer having provided fake insurance paperwork via its computerised system. Some drivers fear that breaches in the technology could put customers’ safety at risk.

The regulator Transport for London (TfL) has now launched an investigation into Uber over the breach.

The San Fransisco-based technology company has 15,000 drivers in London working through its smart-phone app. It has been valued at more than $40bn (£26bn) and has expanded rapidly in cities around the world.

Uber’s driver approval system encourages them to submit renewals of insurance, driving licences and MOT certificates through the internet “to save time and costs of coming in to the office”.

The Guardian worked with a whistleblower who wanted to test Uber’s system after hearing that other drivers may be trying to find loopholes to cut costs. Insurance premiums for new drivers in the UK can cost up to £4,000 ($6,200) a year.

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Fake insurance documents created by the Guardian. Photograph: The Guardian

He uploaded an entirely fabricated insurance policy under the logo of a made-up insurance company, “Freecover”, and Uber approved him to pick up customers.

“Photoshopping is what everyone is talking about,” said another Uber driver on condition of anonymity. “With the fares coming down you have to look at other ways of exploiting the system.”

It was impossible to verify how widespread such attempts to cheat the system are, and Uber said drivers attempting to use fake documents would be reported to the police.

Jo Bertram, the regional general manager for Uber in the UK, Ireland and Nordics, said the breach of its vetting procedure with the Freecover document was “a unique situation”. She strongly denied there was a wider problem with the company’s “very robust” document handling.

“It is absolutely not possible to cheat the system,” she said. “Public safety is our number one priority. We have no interest in allowing any driver who is not fully licensed and insured on the platform.”

But Uber admitted a member of its staff approved the fake Freecover document even though the insurer on the letterhead does not exist.

Despite admitting to the mistake by approving the Freecover insurance, Uber has de-activated the whistleblower from its system and reported him to TfL and the police.

The driver, who asked not to be named, said Uber appeared to be trying to “shoot the messenger” and said he was acting in the wider public interest. He stressed he had genuine insurance in place when he posted the fake document.

“We have demonstrated you can take a job on a fake document but I had genuine insurance,” he said. “It is absurd and uncalled for.”

Uber said its failure to spot the fake document was “a unique situation triggered by a deliberate attempt to try and cheat the system”. But it said it shouldn’t have happened and the company was taking the situation seriously.

“The Guardian has helped identify an important point and we are always looking to improve our document management processes,” said a spokesman. “We are going through our processes and evaluating them to make sure something like this can’t happen again. It [the fake document] was checked. It was a case of human error. The team involved has been spoken to to ensure our high level of practice has been maintained at all times.”

The company said it would reduce the number of insurance companies drivers can use in the UK, to help prevent fraud.

Uber said on Friday it had a “backstop” insurance policy that would cover customers if a driver had an accident without insurance. However, it said, this did not exempt drivers from having their own insurance policy which was required by law and the terms of their private hire licence.

“All trips are covered by commercial insurance,” said a spokesman. “Uber maintains coverage to ensure that this is the case.”

2 Copy of GMB letter to Siwan Hayward at TFL dated 13th June in response to reply from TFL regarding GMB request that UBER licence be suspended due to the insurance problems identified by a GMB whistleblower: 

Dear Mr Siwan Hayward ,

I was staggered to see the response I received on Friday 12th June to the GMB request to revoke this companies licence.

It seems that despite my evidence to the contrary proving indefatigably that a driver could work without insurance this seems to have been dismissed as a misnomer.

Furthermore I am wondering what happens to the previous documents that are on Ubers system because when I uploaded documents in the first instance my insurance was still in date rather than add this back to their system I was requested to despite a request to upload a pre-existing document they should have still had.

This took place prior to my testing the system for alternative upload options.

Does this mean that documents are deleted from their database as a matter of course despite specific rules to the contrary?

Likewise I am doubtful that The high level of daily complaints that can be seen on twitter alone are catalogued as per TFL instructions and that all are showing within Ubers complaints book.

Judging by the deleted tweets we conclude this is being obfuscated to protect Uber from bad publicity.

You have not responded to our request on how you wish to handle the breach of data protection based on the 200 Driver names received in error from Uber.

This was sent some weeks ago.

I have been able to furnish yourselves with multiple instances where I was able to log on to the Uber platform and be allowed to drive with inappropriate documents such as restaurant menus and GMB application forms.

Despite recent changes to the document system it is still possible to upload a fake insurance document without detection. Transporting passengers without proper insurance cover places them in jeopardy in the event if injury due to road accidents.

Just because changes may satisfy you now this does not absolve this company.

This would be like saying because a mugger did not mug anyone recently that they were not guilty.

To ignore this and choose to rely on your own data is inexcusable.

I have now provided clear proof that Uber accounts are available and that data protection as well as card protection are not in place.A response from yourself asked for me to contact the Police.

I can advise that unless TFL make a test purchase under secure conditions no case can take place as I am not prepared to buy illegally obtained data to prove illegality.

It seems to me the onus that you have set down to me on more than one occasion is not only unreasonable but unacceptable as you are supposed to be upholding the law.

The general view of those involved in both Private Hire and Taxi in London is that there is a level of protection granted to Uber that does not exist to others.

Unless you can publicly dispel these views the presumption will continue.

Please explain why my evidence has been ignored.

Additionally can you now confirm NO Licensed operator requires a telephone number after their inspection for Public contact as both Uber and Hailo have none in place.

As soon as you can confirm this we will act to advise the trade promptly.

I would also like to understand why the data protection issue has been dismissed.

The clear level of complaints on Twitter alone beyond 8000 being what they are within the complaints book with appropriate action and client addresses and resolutions.

How with consistent overcharging, charging for others journeys, journeys not booked and proof that drivers are not taking correct routes that TFL finds no wrongdoing is beyond me?

The case for financial probity is now proven but ignored by TFL.

Understandably I will now repeat my request to revoke this companies licence.

Finally despite an article that went in to the Evening Standard in my name missing a portion of the interview with the reporter you wrote in somewhat terse terms which asked for an apology and questioned why I had not alerted yourselves to matters when had indeed emailed yourselves and others.

I am still awaiting an apology for the fact I had indeed emailed and you had chosen to ignore me.

It will come as no surprise that my being elected to my position was based partly to preserve safety for PHV and Taxi users and of course for my not unsubstantial membership but also to help with my Professional experience to improve the quality of life for those who work in our trade.

To continue to treat myself and my membership in this fashion is not only disappointing it is deplorable.

It is my belief that I have treated TFL staff with the upmost courtesy over the recent years and what I am seeing in return is disappointing.

Indeed your TFL council has exhibited a similar propensity for discourtesy as to not respond even with an acknowledgment to my recent reply to him despite the clarity of my response.

Understandably I am more than petered.

Steve Garelick
Branch Secretary Professional Drivers G56
07565 456776

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