Controversial taxi company Uber hit the headlines again recently when Transport for London withdrew Uber’s licence to run taxis in the capital. One of the main concerns raised by TfL was the procedures used by Uber to make sure that their drivers were safe and competent, and that they had no criminal records which could make them unsuitable as drivers. Although the decision was welcomed by London’s black cab drivers who have to undergo stringent vetting, Uber is still free to operate taxi services in several other British cities, including Cambridge, Liverpool and Glasgow. So, what is the real story behind TfL’s withdrawal of the Uber operating licence?

Third Party Providers, TfL and Uber

The press has painted a very different picture to the real situation concerning Uber, TfL and the disclosure checks. From reading press and website reports, you’d get the impression that Uber weren’t doing checks at all on their drivers, or at least not doing the checks properly and therefore people who were convicted of serious crimes were cleared to drive. This is not the case. The true situation is somewhat complex. As all drivers working with Uber are self-employed, Uber is not a “regulated body” which is able to carry out checks itself. In order to get checks done, Uber therefore sent drivers to a partner agency which was accredited, and this organisation, called Onfido, worked with Uber drivers and the Uber head office to get the DBS checks done. This is a fairly standard arrangement for carrying out DBS checking. TfL however decided to change its policy on accepting DBS checks done through a third party in early 2017 and said that only checks processed through the TfL approved contractor, GBGroup, would be accepted. So, same checks, same checking process, same degree of care taken over the checks, but just a different company overseeing the process.

What Else is Going On Here?

The reason behind TfL’s sudden refusal to deal with anyone but its own approved contractor for DBS checking is unclear and has not been fully explained. Many commentators feel that this alone is not enough reason to revoke Uber’s licence to operate. There have also been other issues with Uber’s operation in London in connection with the software they use to allocate customers to drivers, and with their failure to report a serious crime involving one of their drivers. Uber is working hard to get its licence to run a taxi service reinstated.

The Law Regarding DBS Checking

Uber drivers are now having to go through the process of applying for another DBS check with the new TfL provider. Uber drivers – and London black cab drivers – have to have enhanced checks done. This is the more in-depth type of checking and will flag up both spent and unspent convictions and cautions, as well as other information held by the Police which is felt to be relevant to the application. A criminal record doesn’t always stop people from working as a taxi driver; decisions will be made on an individual basis depending on the type of conviction, how long ago the crime was committed and whether it is part of a pattern of offending.