Underage children are renting delivery app accounts to try and make extra money, parents claim
- Apps like Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats allow riders to appoint ‘substitutes’
- Parents of a 17-year-old killed while borrowing an account call for reform of rules
Underage children are exploiting a loophole in food delivery apps to make money by ‘renting’ accounts from adults without any ID checks, an investigation has found.
Account holders on apps such as Uber Eats, Just Eat and Deliveroo are creating a black market by leasing out access to their profiles, exploiting ‘substitution’ rules that allow them to send someone else to deliver food on their behalf under employment law.
Delivery firms require ‘riders’ to submit proof of identity and the right to work and undergo a background check before they are allowed to accept orders, but no such checks are carried out for any substitutes.
One family says their 17-year-old son was killed riding a borrowed motorbike while delivering food on a rented Deliveroo account – despite the minimum age to deliver for the firm being 18.
They, and the government, have called on the firms – part of a market thought to be worth more than £11.2billion, according to analysts – to tighten up their rules on appointing substitutes.
Deliveroo is one of the UK’s biggest food delivery platforms, but families claim lax security checks are allowing children to make deliveries
JustEat is also a market leader in food delivery – and like Deliveroo, its riders are self-employed
An Uber Eats rider making deliveries. As self-employed workers, riders can sub-contract their work to ‘substitutes’
MailOnline found people openly offering accounts for rent on social media within minutes of searching
The parents of one teenager, named Leo, told BBC News that their son was driven to take advantage of the loophole because of its lucrative pay – up to £100 or £200 a night.
Leo’s stepfather Patrick said: ‘No one’s accountable, they just take the money. It’s not right.’
He added that Deliveroo had not been in touch since Leo was killed.
READ MORE: Deliveroo and Uber Eats riders ‘are renting their jobs to illegal immigrants in a black market that allows them to work without record checks’
Food delivery firms promote substitution policies as a perk of the ‘flexibility’ that comes with being self-employed.
Riders who work for firms such as Just Eat, Deliveroo, Uber Eats and others such as HungryPanda – which caters to Chinese businesses – are legally recognised as self-employed rather than working for the companies themselves.
However, this place the onus for responsibility on those who lease out the accounts.
Uber Eats’ policy states: ‘When appointing your substitute, remember you’re still fully responsible for all activities performed by your substitute while using your account and that it’s your responsibility to make sure that they meet all of the requirements to deliver with Uber Eats.’
Just Eat, meanwhile, says: ‘You are fully responsible for all activities performed by your substitute while using your account and it’s your responsibility that they meet all of the requirements.’
Deliveroo tells riders: ‘Please remember that you’re responsible for your substitute and their knowledge of how to carry out deliveries safely.’
However, this has prompted the creation of a black market in food delivery accounts, with offers being made openly on social media to ‘rent’ vetted profiles for a small amount of money.
Offers seen by MailOnline in online communities claim to lease accounts on Just Eat and grocery delivery service GoPuff for around £60 or £70 – which can easily be recouped with a night’s work.
The BBC claimed to have contacted some of those offering accounts while posing as a 16-year-old boy, using an AI-generated profile picture of a youngster.
Those who purported to offer access said someone being underage would not be a barrier to borrowing an account – with the firms carrying out no checks on any substitutes.
Studies carried out by Worker Info Exchange, a research body investigating delivery and ridesharing platforms such as Uber and Deliveroo, claims substitution policies are enabling modern slavery.
A report published by the body in April alleged that people were taking advantage of lax security checks to create huge numbers of rider accounts, likely to be leased out to substitutes with no legal or background checks.
It claimed to have found evidence of 49 Just Eat accounts being linked to a single bank account receiving all of the payments for their activity. The accounts were later deactivated after being reviewed by the firm.
Two separate accounts on social media purported to offer access to accounts on the Just Eat and GoPuff delivery platforms for £60 a week
Home Office minister Robert Jenrick told the BBC that substitution policies were ‘perpetuating and enabling illegal working in our country’.
He has called on food delivery firms to vet substitutes as well as full-time riders.
MailOnline contacted the major food delivery platforms, asking them to outline what they do to combat illegal use of accounts.
Deliveroo said it takes a ‘zero-tolerance approach’ to riders who fail to meet legal obligations when delivering on their behalf. It added that it took its responsibilities ‘extremely seriously’, but did not comment on whether it would vet substitutes.
A spokesperson said: ‘All Deliveroo riders must have the right to work in the UK, whether that is someone who holds an account with us or an individual who is subcontracting an account.
‘If a rider is found to be without the right to work in the UK, we will stop working with them with immediate effect.’
Just Eat said: ‘We have high standards and robust criteria in place for couriers delivering on behalf of Just Eat. This includes ensuring couriers are over the age of 18, carrying out basic criminal checks (DBS), and making sure they have the right to work in the UK.
‘Self-employed independent couriers have the legal right to use a substitute. Under the UK’s employment laws, the courier account holder is responsible for ensuring their substitute meets the necessary standards to deliver on our network.
‘If we find that our high expectations are not met, we will immediately take action, including removing couriers from our network.’
Uber, however, said it was keen to work with the government to find a way through the substitution issue.
An Uber Eats spokesperson said: ‘We understand that there are concerns around this issue, and we are working closely with the Government and want to find a solution.
‘All couriers who use the Uber Eats app must pass a criminal background check, be over the age of 18 and hold a valid right to work in the UK. Any courier that fails to meet these criteria will lose access to the app.’
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