The head of one of the taxi organisations in London is calling for Mayor Sadiq Khan to act following Uber's recent court appearance.
Grant Davis, chairman of the London Cab Drivers Club (LCDC), has submitted a letter to the Mayor demanding that he take action following the ride-hailing firm’s recent convictions for allowing uninsured private hire drivers to work on their platform.
In the letter to City Hall, the Mayor was reminded that Uber had been found guilty on two occasions of allowing its drivers to accept bookings in vehicles without the required hire and reward insurance, plus an additional two offences of failing to keep adequate records.
TaxiPoint reported that the resulting fines totalled £28,800, with additional court costs on top.
In the document sent to Khan, it was highlighted that had Uber been a driver, rather than an operator, they would have been given a minimum of 6 penalty points on their driving licence for each offence. This would have the driver, or in this case the operator, disqualified under the totting-up provisions.
Uber were issued with a fifteen month probationary licence, which expires on 25 September, after Transport for London (TfL) refused to grant the private hire operator a renewal on 22 September 2017. They were deemed to be not “fit and proper” within the meaning of the act to hold an operator’s licence.
The LCDC Chairman wrote: "The refusal to grant Uber a license although appealed by Uber London Ltd, was done on the unusual ground of not opposing TFL’s reasons for not renewing the license – in brief they accepted that at the time the license was refused that was the correct decision as they were not “fit and proper”. Mr. de la Mare QC, for Uber London Ltd (ULL), even argued that TfL had made the right decision on the evidence at that time, arguing instead that the last three inspections showed a “perfect record of compliance” and promising “total compliance to the letter and spirit” of regulatory obligations. This appeared to be a persuasive argument."
When issuing Uber with a probationary licence in 2018, Chief Magistrate Arbuthnot said: “Nine months have passed, the changes set out in the skeleton arguments have taken place. The question for this court is whether ULL can be trusted when it says it has changed and whether it will maintain the changes when these proceedings drop away.”
Davis went on to write in his recent letter: "It is submitted that this recent conviction, relating to matters which directly affect the safety of Londoners, is evidence that Uber London Ltd cannot be trusted and establishes beyond all doubt that the changes which permitted Uber London Ltd to be granted a license have predictably not been maintained once legal proceedings dropped away.
"Although not the most serious offence for which Uber London Ltd were found guilty at Westminster Magistrates Court on the 31st July 2019; we are sure that you will share our concerns that Uber London Ltd also (on at least 2 occasions) failed to keep adequate records.
"Which begs the question; if Uber London Ltd cannot keep adequate records during their probation period when additional conditions attached (which they agreed to uphold) what chance will there be that they keep adequate records when not so heavily scrutinised?"
He then went on to remind the Mayor of Section 3(3) of The Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 and the "fit and proper person" criteria.
Chief Magistrate Arbuthnot told the courts in 2018: "I have considered the evidence and submissions in the case. I have given particular weight to the conditions that have been agreed between the parties. Taking into account the new governance arrangements, I find that whilst ULL was not a fit and proper person at the time of the Decision Letter and in the months that followed, it has provided evidence to this court that it is now a fit and proper person within the meaning of the Act. I grant a licence to ULL.
"The length of the licence has been the subject of discussion. The rapid and very recent changes undergone by ULL lead me to conclude that a shorter period would enable TfL to test out the new arrangements. A 15 month licence will enable Ms Chapman and her team to check the results obtained by the independent assurance procedure set out in condition number 4 whilst ensuring the public are kept safe."
Condition number 4 was an independent assurance procedure that ULL had to maintain, designed to review and validate the effectiveness of its systems, policies, procedures and oversight mechanisms for promoting compliance with its obligations as a licensed operator.
The condition stated that ULL would provide TfL with details about all existing and new customers and/or driver safety and security initiatives, safety and security related products and services and the work of ULL’s Safety Team.
ULL would also have to provide the licensing authority with a copy of an independently-verified assurance procedure report produced every six months from the date of any decision granting the licence, together with a summary of actions ULL proposed to take in response to that report.
Mr Davis said to the Mayor in the letter: "We urge you to consider, for the purposes of section 3(3) of The Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 whether Uber London Ltd remains a “fit and proper person” to hold such a licence.
"If, as accepted by all (including Uber London Ltd and The Chief Magistrate), the refusal by TFL to grant an operator’s license to Uber London Ltd on the 22nd September 2017 was the correct decision surely now, having promised a “perfect record of compliance” and promising “total compliance to the letter and spirit” which Uber London Ltd have spectacularly failed to maintain, even for the 15 months of their probationary license, it is submitted that a decision must NOW be made to immediately revoke Uber London Ltd’s operator’s license.
"The Chief Magistrate was clear of the importance of “ensuing the public are kept safe” which it is submitted can never be the case when an operator permits uninsured drivers onto the street of the capital to ferry around unsuspecting fee paying passengers. Uber London Ltd are not fit to hold a driving license (nor would they if they were an individual) let alone an operator’s license.
"Condition 4 has clearly been breached, the public are not being kept safe – Uber London Ltd are not complying with either the spirit or the letter of compliance and we respectfully demand that action must now be taken to protect the public and restore London’s reputation as a safe city in which to travel."
The LCDC are awaiting the Mayor’s response.
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Main Image Author: Steve Punter
Logo Image Source: LCDC