The journalist – from Swedish newspaper Dagens Industri – signed up to be a driver for UberPOP, a service that puts non-professional drivers with their own cars in touch with passengers via their mobile phones or a website, for rides at budget rates.
The controversial initiative has already been banned in several European countries including France and Germany, although some drivers are continuing to offer the technically illegal service. A recent study by Sveriges Radio suggested that three out of ten UberPOP drivers in Sweden have not been paying taxes.
Uber has repeatedly insisted that all of its drivers undergo training, must have held a driving licence for at least three years and are checked to make sure that they do not have a criminal record.
But Dagens Industri (DI) says that its reporter was sent an email giving them the green light to start offering the UberPOP service in less than 48 hours, without speaking to a representative from the company or meeting anyone in person and before their documents had been received by the firm. The journalist had only been driving for four months.
Alex Czarnecki, a spokesperson for the company, told DI that it used “publically available databases” to check up on potential drivers and immediately banned people from driving if their documentation had not been received within 14 days.
But he acknowledged that the journalist did not meet the firm's criteria to become an UberPOP driver, writing in an email to DN: “We are currently investigating how this application could be approved and have already taken steps to prevent similar situations in future”.
Uber Sweden has not had a country manager since spring, when Robin Reznik left the company. Its marketing manager Barbara Canales also left Stockholm at around the same time to work with the firm in the US.
The car-sharing service, which is currently active in 57 countries, launched in the Swedish capital in early 2013 and also operates in Gothenburg.
Earlier this year its founder Travis Kalanick said the system was set to create 50,000 new jobs in Europe in 2015, and would help take 400,000 cars off the road by encouraging drivers to use shared rides instead.
The firm has recently been valued at nearly 40 billion dollars.