Uber, the company that enables private vehicle drivers to operate as a taxi service has been attracting controversy since its launch date, mainly due to concerns about the safety of both their drivers, and the passengers.
New Uber drivers, some of whom may not be familiar with transporting passengers, often fail to realise that a standard insurance policy will not cover them if they are using their vehicle for work purposes.
Failure to take out full, or part-time insurance for private hire exposes Uber workers to fines and prosecution, as well as lack of insurance cover in the event of an accident.
For Uber passengers, the risks of riding include uncertainty about the condition of the vehicle, the driver’s road skills, and the background of the driver transporting them.
In 2019, it was revealed that a loophole in Uber’s computer systems was allowing drivers to upload their photos under a different driver’s profile so they could pose as the authorised driver booked by a paying customer.
It is thought that up to 14,000 pickups were carried out by drivers operating under false pretences. Back in November 2019 Transport for London (TfL) revoked Uber’s permit to operate in the capital city, effectively banning the service.
In addition to the identity fraud carried out by drivers, TfL cited cases in which banned or suspended drivers were able to still create a new account and continue to transport passengers.
The service provided by Uber and similar companies has been particularly popular in cities, but this is where Uber has met some of its strongest opposition, often from operators of more traditional taxi services.
London’s black cab drivers protested that Uber’s fare system, in which passengers are charged according to the length of the journey and the time it takes, was illegal because it operated according to the same rules as the meters exclusive to licensed taxis.
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On this occasion, TfL ruled that Uber’s charging system was lawful, but the authority’s 2019 ruling has led to a lengthy legal battle in Westminster magistrates’ court, after nearly 12 months, deputy chief magistrate Tan Ikram has stated that he has confidence the firm ‘no longer poses a risk to public safety’.
According to Ikram, Uber has cracked down on identity and insurance policy fraud to the extent that it is now at the forefront of the sector in preventing illicit activity.
Uber has been granted a licence for 18 months of operations, under a set of conditions agreed jointly by the company and TfL.
Uber’s drivers can also help protect themselves by doing their research and making sure they have the right type of car insurance in place.
A standard vehicle policy does not cover for carrying paying passengers, even if you are insured to use your car for work or business, and for drivers that only work occasionally, it may be more affordable to take out a part-time insurance policy for private hire.