Outrage as Deliveroo and other apps found to have children working as riders
Food delivery apps have been found to have children working as delivery riders via a black market trade which allows underage riders to buy accounts.
It comes after a 17-year-old boy died while working as a Deliveroo rider despite 18 being the minimum age, with his family branding the company “unaccountable”.
Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Just Eat all have policies which allow riders to lend accounts to others, which is called ‘substitution’.
The Home Office is currently urging the apps to change the policy, which currently allows riders to lend their accounts to anyone regardless of whether they have the right to work.
Riders who sign up with the companies have to pass background checks and verify their age, but once their account is lent to another it is considered the responsibility of the account holder to ensure the new rider is allowed to work rather than the company.
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According to a BBC investigation, the system is fuelling an online black market for accounts, which potentially allows them to be sold to children.
Leo, who was killed when delivering food on a borrowed motorbike aged 17, first began riding for Deliveroo at just 15, borrowing an account from a man in the town where he lived.
Leo’s stepfather Patrick said: “Leo wanted to be a millionaire. Whatever it took, he just wanted to earn money and hustle.
“No-one’s accountable, they just take the money. It’s not right.”
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His family decided to withhold their surname for fear of repercussions from those using illegal accounts in their area.
Leo’s mum, Preeta added: “They make a lot of money and they don’t want to stop. £100 or £200 a day – it’s a lot of money.”
Patrick said the family have not been contacted by Deliveroo since the incident adding that he felt “they wouldn’t even know he existed”.
Deliveroo said it had a “zero tolerance” approach to ineligible riders saying that if a rider was found to be ineligible “we will stop working with them with immediate effect”.
As part of its investigation, the BBC set up a social media app with an AI-generated face of a 16-year-old boy and messaged black market sellers.
Despite telling one seller they were 16, they replied “I want to help you, age does not matter”, while another offered his Uber Eats account for £70 per week, adding: “They don’t check age, it’s more like you are using my account.”
Just Eat accounts were also available from the same seller.
The Government is said to be unhappy with the situation and has called in the big three apps for a meeting today.
Home Office Minister Robert Jenrick told the BBC: “This is not a victimless activity, we’ve seen a young person die when he was doing a job that he shouldn’t have been doing.”
Deliveroo said: “We take our responsibilities extremely seriously and we continue to work in close collaboration with the relevant authorities to support their efforts in this area.”
Just Eat released a statement saying: “We have high standards and a robust criteria in place for couriers. Self-employed independent couriers have the legal right to use a substitute.
“Legally the courier account-holder is responsible for ensuring their substitute meets the necessary standards to deliver on our network.”
And Uber Eats said all couriers “must pass a criminal background check, be over the age of 18 and hold a valid right to work in the UK”.
It added: “We understand that there are concerns around this issue, and we are working closely with the Government and want to find a solution.”
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