Uber’s London Licence Loss, a Lesson for Government

Media release
06 December 2019

Transport for London (TfL) has stripped Uber of its operating licence for the second time in just over two years, after the Government regulator once again deemed the company to not be ‘fit and proper’. This has led the Taxi Council of Queensland (TCQ) to question how Queensland’s Department of Transport bureaucrats can hold a completely contradictory view about Uber, granting the company unconditional Booking Entity Authorisation (BEA) until 2023.

For the past two years, Uber’s London operations have been subject to special probationary conditions imposed by TfL. Rigorous scrutiny of Uber’s compliance with those conditions has recently revealed a litany of failures relating to safety and security. In September 2017, after TfL declined to renew its licence for London, Uber appealed the decision. The appeal led to Uber getting its licence renewed but not without the imposition of strict probationary conditions and only for two years. When that probationary licence expired in September, TfL only granted the company a two-month extension. Now, London’s transport authority has refused to renew Uber’s licence to operate after identifying a continued pattern of failures by the company including not reporting serious criminal offences and fraudulent drivers – failures that are not confined only to London but evidenced in the US and in Australia.

The short leash that Uber has been on in London should be a massive red flag for Queensland bureaucrats, however the Department of Transport’s website shows that Uber’s trading company, Rasier Pacific Pty Ltd, has been granted authorisation to operate in Queensland until 30 November 2023. With BEAs only valid for up to five years, this suggests Queensland’s Transport and Main Roads (TMR) has issued, and subsequently renewed Uber’s BEA, during the same period that TfL has been finding Uber not a “fit and proper” company.

TCQ CEO Blair Davies said it is almost unbelievable that TfL, with its much greater experience with Uber and expertise in regulating a far bigger Personalised Transport sector, can hold deep concerns about Uber and yet our local Transport Department officials seemingly cannot see any concerns whatsoever.

“Uber’s short leash has once again been shortened in London, yet TMR continues to sell to us that Uber is a ‘fit and proper’ company to operate in Australia,” said Mr Davies. “For Uber to have the authority to operate until 2023, suggests TMR has turned a blind-eye to the serious issues around public safety.

“As a global business, Queensland regulators need to be looking at Uber and how the business operates everywhere, especially in comparable markets. They need to be learning from the experiences of their overseas counterparts. It’s a naive mindset for our bureaucrats to ignore what’s happening in London, and even more worrying that our Government officials are not alive to any of the concerns that clearly worry their TfL counterparts.

“The clear lack of action doesn’t inspire any confidence as a strategy for assuring Queenslanders that their personalised transport sector will operate with the highest safety standards and vulnerable members of the community will be well protected.”

Considering London’s scrutiny, TCQ is questioning why TMR is not forcing Uber to reapply for its BEA, on a regular basis and with special conditions.

TCQ is urging the State Government to learn from TfL’s assertive actions, take control back of Queensland roads and to hold booked-hire platforms, like Uber, more accountable for the safety of passengers and drivers.

“TMR needs to place Uber under stricter scrutiny by requiring them to reapply for its BEA on a regular basis and get on the front-foot on issues of ill-practice and misconduct from the company.

“It’s time for our bureaucrats to lose their naivety and start applying due diligence to ensuring that every company they authorise to operate a booked-hire service in Queensland, is genuinely fit and proper,” said Mr Davies.