There has been much in the news recently regarding Transport for London's (TfL) decision to not renew Uber's operator's license as of the 30 September 2017. But what is the importance of that decision, and how does it affect Uber and other Private Hire Vehicle firms?
Firstly, the important thing to note is that anyone looking to run a Private Hire Vehicle business requires an operator's licence. A Private Hire Vehicle is a vehicle that can be booked, usually via telephone, for journeys elsewhere, unlike the hackney cab, or taxi, that can be hailed on the street.
Operating such a business without an operator's licence is an offence, which can result in a £1,000 fine.
The key point is that a council requires an operator to be a "fit and proper person" in order to hold an operators' licence, and in the case of Uber it is clear that TfL believes they fall below that mark, due to alleged irregularities in it reporting serious offences, obtaining medical and DBS checks as well as the use of Greyball software.
So how does an operator challenge such a decision?
Thankfully for the aggrieved operator, there is a right of appeal to the Magistrates' Court, followed by a further right of appeal to the Crown Court. If appealing, the decision of a council is essentially stayed until the outcome of the appeal. The appeal itself must be lodged within 21 days. That time limit cannot be extended for the appeal to the Magistrates'' Court.
On that basis, it is crucial for operators of private hire companies to ensure that any appeal is lodged within time, to allow the business to continue operating in the interim, and to prevent the need to apply for such a licence from a fresh start.
That said, an operator must be able to show that the decision was wrong, and Magistrates' are often uncomfortable overturning the decisions of a local licensing committee. The potential costs burden on an operator is also worth considering, as such appeals often require the preparation of significant amounts of paperwork.
If you are affected by a council's decision on private hire or taxi licensing, please do not hesitate to contact Robert Readfern.