Ride-hailing giants Uber expect ALL private hire vehicle (PHV) operators across England, Wales and Northern Ireland to change their business model to reflect regulations which are ‘substantially the same as London’.
In December 2021, the High Court determined that all London PHV operators must now contract directly with passengers to provide the journey. Following this ruling, it is unlawful for an operator in London to act as an ‘agent’ between the driver and passenger. Any operator who did so has had to make several changes to their model.
The big change impacting the sector centres around operators now accouting for VAT on all journeys if their revenue is above the £85,000 threshold. Operators will also need to make necessary changes to their terms of business to reflect that it is them, not drivers, who provide the transportation services.
Uber has complied with the judgment and other operators such as Bolt, Ola and FreeNow have all made the required changes to their business model, both in London and in the rest of the UK.
The judgment applies to every private hire operator in London, however Uber considers that the PHV regulation in the rest of England, Wales and Northern Ireland is ‘substantially the same’.
Uber considers that there should be a level playing field between operators and that materially similar rules in London, England, Wales and Northern Ireland should be interpreted consistently. Speaking to TaxiPoint, an Uber spokesperson said:
“We have completed the changes to our business model as required by law. Uber considers that the PHV regulation in the rest of England, Wales and Northern Ireland is substantially the same as London, so Uber applied these changes across the UK."
A decision from the court is expected to be handed down before the end of the year.
North West legal firm Aaron & Partners is representing the group of Liverpool taxi firms involved in the case, which includes Delta Taxis. They are worried the changes would impact ‘those who can afford it the least’.
Layla Barke-Jones, a Partner in the firm’s Dispute Resolution team, said: “We are pleased to have had the opportunity to represent the views of our clients in the High Court last week, and we hope to have done enough to protect one of the traditional models of the private hire industry.
“Whether it’s parents on the school run, the elderly accessing vital services such as shops and medical appointments, or people with disabilities travelling from A to B, private hire services are simply vital to communities up and down the country.”
Ms Barke-Jones added: “If the consequences of the declaration sought by Uber do arise, as warned by Delta and others, it is likely to bring about a significant rise in fares that will hit the pockets of those who can afford it the least.
“It would also come at a time when people all over the country are already feeling the squeeze of a cost-of-living crisis, with many other basic necessities starting to become unaffordable.
“Simply put, the magnitude and implications of this case will be vast and wide-reaching. We eagerly await its conclusion.”