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The recent decision of Transport for London (TfL) to strip taxi service Über

Under or Non-Insured App Developers Should Note Über Case

Nov 2019

The recent decision of Transport for London (TfL) to strip taxi service Über of its licence to operate in the capital, demonstrates how things can go wrong, even for one of the world’s most famous Apps. It also highlights the need for App developers to have robust insurance and legal expenses protection.

In a damning assessment of the firm’s processes, the London authority ruled that Über does not meet its ‘fit and proper requirements for private hire operators’ and went on to state “several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk’.”[1]

Whilst Über has the opportunity to appeal, its success in doing so may well depend on whether it can show that its App is more robust and less open to manipulation. The software has dropped the service in deep water, because of holes that allowed unauthorised drivers to upload their pictures to the accounts of other drivers. As a result, 14,000 uninsured journeys were unwittingly made by passengers.

Some of the drivers concerned had been banned by TfL. Other failures within the App also allowed drivers, who had been sacked or suspended, to create new accounts and carry on driving.

This is not the first time Über has lost its London licence and it is likely to rack up expensive legal bills in trying to get the TfL decision overturned, as it managed to do last time. It will also have to bring in new technology, such as facial recognition, to confirm the identity of drivers[2]. With new competitors – Kapten[3] and Bolt[4] now circling – these could be uncertain times for Über, given that London is its fifth most important city in business generation terms.

In a world of digital disruption, things can go wrong with Apps and software, as this case shows. Whilst a few decades ago, cover could probably be sold as generic ‘IT insurance’, these days there are more refinements and considerations in play, which can make tailored insurance, bought through a commercial insurance broker, a more robust way of covering risk.

At a core level, however, App developers need two main types of insurance cover – Professional Indemnity and Public Liability protection. Depending on their size, they may also require specialist Freelancer cover or, if employing various developers, an Employers Liability policy.

It is essential that developers protect their clients from any losses an App creates and have the legal back-up to be represented by legal-sector professionals, if a client lodges a claim for damages. Cyber insurance is another likely need, particularly if an App could facilitate a loss of data and breach GDPR regulations.

The package of cover should be as agile as any developer, but constructing the perfect package can often mean finding an insurance broker with the skills to assist.

Luckily, if you wish to source a broker to assist you, it is not über difficult! Just use our ‘Find a Local Broker’ tool and talk to an expert about your business and how it operates.