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Uber Cabs Accepting Fake Insurance Documents

taxi insuranceTFL (Transport For London) have started an investigation into ride-sharing cab company Uber after a whistle-blower was able to get work with the firm after uploading a completely fake insurance document into their online system from an insurance company that doesn't even exist.

The whistle-blower was already a registered Uber driver when he made the discovery. The driver, who has not been named, uploaded an insurance document to Uber's online system from a company called Freecover which doesn't even exist. Uber's system fully accepted the document and the driver was able to keep picking up paying customers.

Drivers have the ability to upload their insurance, MOT and driving license documents through the internet meaning that all security checks are down to an algorithm instead of human scrutiny. Uber commented on the fake document on their website saying: "The fraudulent document has been incorrectly approved. We have reduced the number of insurers that our UK drivers can use in order to improve our systems. This will prevent fraud."

Uber drivers have been voicing their opinion on various forums on the web. One poster said: "The idiots that thought this whistle-blowing up are going to negatively affect every Uber driver in the UK. That's a lot of enemies to make." Picking up fare-paying taxi passengers without valid insurance is obviously illegal and a breach of the rules and regulations set out by Uber and TFL. However, taxi driver's insurance premiums are costing up to £4,000 per year so exploiting any legal loopholes will definitely be tempting to a number of drivers. This has been accelerated by Uber's choice to how much their drivers earn per ride.

Uber is based in San Francisco and already has 15,000 drivers working in London. All business is sorted through Uber's smartphone app which makes the service very convenient for passengers and employees alike. Uber's UK regional manager Joe Bertram said: "This is a unique situation. It is absolutely not possible to cheat the system. Public safety is our number one priority. We have no interest in allowing any driver who is not fully licensed and insured on our platform."

Another anonymous Uber driver said: "Photoshopping is what everybody is talking about. With the fares coming down you have to look at other ways of exploiting the system." Uber have admitted that one of their staff members approved the fake Freecover document after it had been processed by their automated system. Uber have also permanently removed the whistle-blower from their system and reported him to the TFL. The whistle-blower claims that he has his own separate insurance and his actions were simply to highlight the company's vetting shortfalls.

Uber have a 'backstop' insurance policy which covers every single Uber ride whether the driver has their own insurance or not but it is still illegal for drivers to travel without their own insurance policy. An Uber spokesperson said: "The incident has helped to identify an important point and we are always looking to improve our document management processes. We are going through our processes and evaluating them to make sure something like this can't happen again. It was a case of human error. The team has been spoken to in order to ensure our high level of practice is maintained at all times."

James Savery, 16 June 2015

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