Uber’s appeal against Brighton and Hove’s decision to suspend their operators licence was heard in court this week as the ride-hailing app attempts to overturn the decision. The council has argued that Uber are undermining their regulatory framework by using “out of town” cars instead of private hire vehicles licensed locally. Brighton and Hove council have appealed to district judge Tessa Szagun for localised vehicles to be considered over the so-called “right to roam” rule. Uber’s argument over the claims was that complaints made against the controversial app were made by “local taxi companies” and that there was not a “scrap of evidence” to back up the claims. Addressing the council’s concerns was Leo Charalambides who said the implications of cross border hiring as used by mobile apps such as Uber had not been tested in the higher courts. He added: “There were concerns from the outset that the impact of this novel operation needed to be assessed and considered. “My case is an appeal for your sympathy for localism. Our local councillors are concerned that the right to roam is having an adverse impact on the application of our local policy. “Can the right to roam be of such importance that the power of local people to decide what their own public interest requires can be so outweighed by that particular legal consideration?” Brighton and Hove council are looking for Uber to geofence its app so that only licensed private hire drivers from their licensing authority can receive and accept jobs. If so, they have said they would be happy to reinstate its licence. Philip Kolvin QC, representing Uber, had his own views on the argument, saying:
“The chief magistrate has said the question of cross border hiring is irrelevant to the fit and proper assessment. “This is a perfect example of using licensing law for an ulterior motive. “Are these Uber drivers rampaging in Brighton and causing harm? In fact there’s not a scrap of evidence that speaks of actual harm. “Removing the right for Transport for London drivers to drive here has taken a lot of heat out of this situation. My client is now well on track to meet the 20 per cent wheelchair accessible vehicle requirement when it hits 100 cars. “The heat which seemed to be there in April and May seems to have vanished. The direction of travel is a good one. “My client should be allowed to continue to be licensed here rather than operating outside the council’s jurisdiction.” One of the biggest concerns for the council was the amount of Lewes licensed drivers were descending on Brighton. A webpage had been put up which unfavourably compared the cost and speed of obtaining a PHV licence in Brighton and Lewes seemingly to encourage budding Uber drivers to seek their licence in Lewes. As reported in Brighton and Hove News, Uber’s head of mobility Fred Jones, has said that webpage has now been taken down. He added that Uber were in favour of cross border hiring because it meant drivers were not having to travel back from other areas with no fares. His argument focused on trying to avoid congestion and increased pollution. The appeal which was scheduled for two days only lasted the one. Judge Szagun will now announce her decision for the final outcome on December 11.