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Divisional Court judgments on private hire vehicle licensing


The Divisional Court (Males LJ and Fraser J) has held that:

  1. Private hire vehicles (PHVs) booked through the FREENOW smartphone app are not unlawfully “plying for hire” (which licenced taxis but not PHVs can do); the Court followed a previous Divisional Court judgment in Reading v Ali deciding this point in relation to the Uber app; and
  2. An operator licensed under the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 who accepts a booking from a passenger must enter into a contractual obligation with the passenger to provide the journey in respect of that booking.  Lord Leggatt in the Supreme Court judgment in Uber BV v Aslam had suggested that this was the case and the Divisional Court has agreed and made a declaration that this is so. 

These issues arose in the course of Part 8 proceedings for a declaration between Uber and Transport for London (TfL), and judicial review proceedings in which the United Trade Action Group Ltd (the trade association for black taxi drivers) challenged (unsuccessfully) TfL’s  decision to grant a PHV licence to Tranopco (UK) Ltd in relation to the FREE NOW app.

The judgment is here.

Maya Lester QC, Marie Demetriou QC, and Tim Johnston acted for TfL (at different stages of the case).