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How to handle PCO operator disputes


Losing access to the Uber app or the other operators (ie Bolt or FREENOW) is a nightmare for the PCO driver. It means that you cannot work for that specific app – nor any of them if the problem originates from TfL – and the longer this suspension lasts, the more money you lose. The clock is ticking. 

To get back on the road swiftly, it’s vital to understand what causes these issues and the steps needed to resolve them. This post is the first of a series that will outline common problems – and provide solutions. 

Otto Car is glad to help the entire private hire community on this topic. After all, we do communicate regularly with the stakeholders – such as the operators or TfL – and our experts are happy to share tips.

We also asked every PCO driver in our own family to tell us about their personal experiences of being blocked and had one of the largest-ever responses to a survey. Your voices have definitely been heard.

First, let’s remember that these security processes all exist for a good reason: to keep everyone safe. The same rules that protect the riders also benefit the drivers, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. 

Why do PCO drivers get suspended?

In simple terms, there are five main reasons why operators will pause access to a driver’s account.  

  • Admin (e.g. documents out-of-date or licence suspended)
  • Performance (e.g. low driver rating or high trip-cancellations)
  • Vehicle (e.g. car is unfit to drive)
  • Code of conduct (e.g. unsafe driving or account inactivity) 
  • Complaints (e.g. from riders or other road users)

There is clearly overlap here. For example, if a TfL Compliance Officer does a spot check at Kings Cross and notices the PCO car is unsafe, they might insist on repairs and stop the driver working until it’s done. 

Did you know:
Otto Car provides unlimited free help for drivers to upload new documents into the Uber system or fix them.

How to reactivate a blocked Uber account

Not every account deactivation is serious. Uber says the most common reason why drivers lose access to its app is simply due to an expired document or incorrect details. Even so, it’s frustrating if the issue is merely a technical or admin glitch, as these can still take a significant amount of time to fix.  

Less than one third of all operator disputes were resolved within two days according to our driver survey.  Another quarter took up to a week to sort out – and the remainder lasted even longer, or never got fixed. 

The key here is patience and good communication. More than anything, do not ever lose your temper as that only makes the situation worse. 

How to deal with a rider complaint 

Let’s assume the reason that your account gets blocked is because of a complaint made against you. More than two-thirds of PCO drivers who reported incidents in our survey said that their complaint came from a rider but that’s not always the case. It could be from another driver, a cyclist or even a pedestrian. 

Note that the complaint might have been given directly to the operator – for instance, in the Uber app. But it could also have been reported to TfL or made directly to the police. What matters is to establish the actual reason and then prepare your side of the story calmly with the relevant evidence. 

Many drivers get confused because the original message that they get from the operator about a complaint rarely provides many details. However, this is to protect the privacy and safety of the rider.  

Step one: Find the facts

The operator message should tell you the date of the alleged incident and a time-window. For example, between noon and 4pm on a specific day. If this window is not provided and you are uncertain about what the complaint relates to, contact the operator’s support team and ask them to be more precise. This should jog your memory and will be super helpful when it comes to finding the right video evidence.

Step two: Prepare your evidence

In most cases, the operator will ask for an explanation and for any video footage of the alleged incident. It greatly helps that every Otto Car has a built-in dashcam and our team is always on-hand to help the driver find the clips that prove what happened. Even if you have your own dashcam, bear in mind that the CCTV footage eventually overwrites itself and so it’s vital to get hold of this footage promptly.  

Step three: Submit the response

Whether or not you are lucky enough to have video evidence to upload, you must provide a written explanation. Take time to think about this and ask for help if you lack confidence with written english. Stick to the relevant facts and answer the question rather than saying too much. Otto Car staff are happy to help drivers and can provide text that proves you attempted to find the video even if it does not exist.  

Expert tips on how to avoid rider complaints  

Make sure you know the code of conduct for private hire drivers on the TfL website and also Uber’s Community Guidelines. Some points are obvious, such as the no-sex rule, but others are more subtle

  • Never touch the riders (aside from those who need help on Uber Assist)
  • Do not ask personal questions (e.g. relationship status or sexual orientation)
  • Do not comment on people’s appearance (e.g. even compliments)
  • All contact ends when the trip is complete (unless returning a lost item)
  • Avoid gestures that could be disrespectful, threatening, or inappropriate. 

The last point is worth emphasising. Even if a rider is being confrontational or rude you must stay calm.

Did you know:
When video evidence is reviewed, it’s always noted whether anyone shown in it looks aggressive. If the driver only looks forwards and makes no hand gestures, the complaint is more likely to be dismissed. 

Final thoughts

Otto Car understands the working life of a PCO diver is tricky. We heard incredible stories about riders who claimed they were “kidnapped” while the driver took a moment to find a safe spot to park. Others filed complaints of sexual harassment merely because the driver asked them not to touch the car radio.  

This post is merely the start of an ongoing conversation about how these operator disputes work – and whether you or not you are member of the Otto Car family, we are happy to protect you with a dashcam

The truth of the matter is often easily revealed. Let’s remind ourselves again that these processes exist for everyone’s safety. If you stick to the rules and remain relaxed, you will have nothing to worry about. 

Otto Car’s Dashcam scheme protects your income against a rider dispute or accident as you work with 24/7 video capture. Everything is fully TfL-approved and you’ll own the Dashcam after one year. Learn more about the scheme here

Want to learn more?

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