Black taxi driver during protest against cab app Uber in London
Black taxi driver during protest against cab app Uber in LondonGetty

Taxi-booking app Uber is dangerous because it includes immigrant drivers from "third world countries," a union official for black cabs has claimed.

The London Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) said a lack of background checks by Uber on drivers on its books made it difficult to uncover individuals who posed a risk to passengers.

Cabbies on Uber are classed as self-employed and so are not subject to the same screening as black taxi drivers, said Steve McNamara, LTDA general secretary. Foreign drivers from "corrupt countries" could bypass all checks designed to protect customers. he said.

As a result, using Uber was like "getting in a sea full of sharks - one day you are going to get bitten," McNamara told IBTimes UK's sister publication Newsweek.

However, the regulator for taxis in London responded by revealing more complaints were made by customers about black cabs than private hire drivers.

McNamara blasted Uber after a woman in New Delhi, India, was raped by a driver she found on the phone app. The incident has led to Uber being banned in India.

He said: "LTDA are very concerned about their screening methods. Even though it's TFL [Transport for London] who screen their drivers, those checks only work if you've been a resident in this country for five or six years.

"If you're a recent immigrant in this country, which many of their drivers are, you can't do the same Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check you could if they were from the UK or EU."

"The places where they come from, these third world countries, or dodgy Eastern European countries like Lithuania or Romania, the administration isn't great. Their facilities are not good and their administration is poor at best and almost certainly corrupt.

They're all corrupt, these countries. You can't rely on someone else to do the checks to the standard we do in this country."

The Home Office acknowledged Uber drivers occupied a "grey area" because while Uber sources them customers and takes a 20-30% cut of the fare, the drivers are classed as self-employed.

A TfL spokesman said: ""People are welcome to make complaints and commend both taxis and private hire vehicles to us. We see a much higher number of taxi complaints than mini cab complaints though as often, if people know the company name, they'll go straight to them with complaints.

"With a black cab we are the first port of call - there's not a body you'd naturally go to complain. But people are perfectly able to come to us about private hire firms too."