TfL must ‘urgently reconsider’ how Private Hire operators accept bookings says LTDA taxi lawyer

Taxi drivers have challenged Transport for London (TfL) to make an urgent review into how private hire operators accept bookings in the capital, following a landmark Supreme Court judgment.

Following the Court’s ruling which handed Uber drivers basic workers’ rights, the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) describes a section of the judgement which questions how bookings are taken on the Uber platform as the ‘biggest revelation’.

Steve McNamara, LTDA General Secretary, said to members: “The biggest revelation is hidden deep inside the Supreme Court Judgement handed down by Lord Leggat, but agreed with unanimously by the other five members of the Supreme Court.

“In the ruling, the Court questions the legality of how Uber accepts bookings and concludes that ‘the driver, as well as Uber London, accepts the booking’ This is the exact point our lawyers made to TfL in 2017 during the first Uber licensing appeal!

“The same 'unlawful' booking acceptance procedure is used by dozens of private hire car operators across London, and our lawyers have today written to TfL requesting an urgent review of how private hire operators accept bookings.”

In the letter submitted to TfL’s Legal team, solicitors acting on behalf of the LTDA, state:

“In view of the content of the Supreme Court judgment we submit that TfL should urgently reconsider whether London PHV operators who purport to accept bookings as agent for unlicensed PHV drivers are trading lawfully.

“It is not just Uber which does this: we are aware that similar stances are taken by Bolt, FreeNow and Ola. Addison Lee operators the agency model for non-business customers.

“We respectfully suggest that when in 2018 TfL accepted that a mere software change conferred legality on Uber’s agency model, it lost sight of the clear legislative intent that a person who accepts private hire bookings in London has to be licensed to do so. The legislation was intended, in part, to preserve the distinction between hackney carriages (which may ply for hire) and minicabs (which had to be pre-booked through the operator). TfL‘s approval of Uber’s revised operating model permitted an app-based PHV operator to continue to subvert that intent by the mere tweaking of IT systems. TfL did not at the time address the fundamental issues we raised in March 2017: as the judgement in Uber V Aslam confirms, those issues have not gone away.”

Speaking to TaxiPoint earlier this week, TfL did confirm they are ‘considering’ the judgement. A TfL spokesperson said: “We are considering the Supreme Court’s judgment and any impacts on the provision of transport services in London.”

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