Uber has announced its new policy that aims to improve the safety of its customers and its drivers in the UK.

The new measures include a 24/7 telephone support line for drivers and customers, direct reporting of serious incidents to the police and providing further licensing related details of drivers to customers.

Uber will be providing a round-the-clock support line for both drivers and customers to deal with any issues that cannot be resolved through the app itself. This will require the recruitment and training of staff and will be rolled out later in 2018.

Another change to its policy is passing information about serious incidents reported by customers directly to the police. Previously Uber encouraged and supported individuals when they made complaints to TfL or the police but this new procedure is more pro-active.

Uber will also offer to pass information to the police on behalf of drivers.

The company claims to have already implemented this approach in London. It will roll it out in other areas of the UK once the procedure has been discussed with regional police forces.

Uber will also give customers greater access to information about its drivers. Their licensing authority information and private hire licence number will be on both the booking confirmation and the electronic receipt.

This will make it easier for customers to make complaints to either Uber or the licencing authority.

What was said:

General manager of Uber in the UK Tom Elvidge said: “With millions of trips across the UK booked through our app each week the safety of riders and drivers using Uber is a top priority.

“Over the last few years we’ve led the way with pioneering technology which enhances safety, like GPS tracking of every trip and our two-way rating system.

“But we recognise we can use our technology to go even further in setting a higher standard for private hire and other transport options.

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“After listening to feedback from drivers, riders, local regulators and the police we’re introducing a number of new features and changes to enhance driver and passenger safety.”

In response to the move, a TfL spokesperson said: “Safety is our top priority and we expect the highest standards from all operators in the private hire market. We welcome any move that has the potential to improve the safety of private hire drivers and their passengers.”

They continued: “[it is] in the interests of public safety and passenger convenience that all operators should enable passengers to speak to someone during their hours of business and at all times during a journey”.

What this means:

Uber is currently appealing Transport for London’s decision to not renew its private hire operating license in London. TfL’s justification for this move was a “lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications.”

This ruling in September 2017 was followed by bans elsewhere in the UK, including York, Sheffield and Brighton.

London’s metropolitan police expressed concerns about Uber’s failure to appropriately investigate allegations of sexual assault against passengers, and this was a major part of TfL’s decision to not renew the company’s license.

Yesterday, TfL released its policy statement about private hire vehicles (PHV) in London. It provided a list of suggestions about how PHV companies could improve their services so that customer service and safety are prioritised.

Under the new management of Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber is seeking to ensure that it does not lose this appeal and therefore its license in London. By introducing these new safety procedures, the company is trying to show it is listening to the concerns expressed by TfL, the Metropolitan police and local UK councils, as well as its customers and drivers, about its failings regarding the safety and security of users.

The move to have a 24/7 customer service phone line is connected with TfL’s court of appeal hearing where it will demand that PHV operations must have a phone line. Originally Uber were going to oppose TfL on this issue but it is now expected to give evidence of its actions in this regard.

Background:

This policy change follows Uber’s announcement in January that it would introduce a cap on the number of hours its drivers could work. According to the new rules, drivers must take a six hour break after ten hours of working.

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