Now that the Daily Mail has gone cold on covering the more dubious dealings and behaviour of driver and rider matching service Uber, the baton has been picked up by Andrew “transcription error” Gilligan, now at the Murdoch Sunday Times. This has resulted in another article today headlined “Uber drivers forced to have new criminal record check”.
Why so? “The vetting process for thousands of drivers offering the under-fire service in London has been declared invalid”. Gilligan explains what has happened: “All would-be minicab drivers in London must be checked against information held by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), a Government agency, for criminal records, unsuitability to work with children or Police warnings”. So what has changed?
“Uber worked with a London-based company called Onfido to carry out the checks. Uber referred drivers to Onfido, which would check with the DBS and then issue TfL with a certificate stating the facts about the driver’s background. Onfido describes Uber as a ‘client’ … TfL accepted these certificates until this year”.
But following “a recent review of policy”, that is no longer deemed acceptable. Now, TfL wants checks to be performed via its own contractor. So what does Uber say about the change? “Uber does not require potential drivers to use a specific provider and does not have a say in who gets licensed … it is ultimately up to the regulator to review the application and DBS check and decide who is granted a licence”. Whatever.
And, apart from reminding his readers that Uber’s licence in London expires at the end of this month, plus a few words on recent management upheavals at the company - the singularly unpleasant Travis Kalanick is no longer head man - that is all that Gilligan has to tell us. But there is one very important conclusion he has missed.
If Uber is not fussed about vetting its drivers, and happy to leave that to the appropriate regulator, then what is it there for? Setting fares? Enforcing standards? Minicab drivers, whether singularly or banded together into larger groups, are well able to set fares themselves, and have done for decades. The travelling public can enforce their own standards, giving those who offer a poor service a miss.
All that would be left for Uber is taking the money, something at which they excel, while happily cutting rates in an effort to screw over black cabs and established minicab operators, and subject their drivers to longer, more fatiguing hours.
So those drivers at present with Uber need access to an app. They don’t need a huge, overbearing corporate entity like Uber to exist to do that. In its laid-back and indeed almost dismissive response to Gilligan’s prodding, Uber has shown that it’s happy to dump all it can on local regulators, then sit back and let the money roll in.
There is no need for Uber to exist. Uber has, effectively, said as much. I’ll just leave that one there.