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PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2019 6:40 pm 
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The mere fact that a vehicle appears on a booking app is not enough, on it's own, to say that that vehicle was 'plying for hire'. ... 9/200.html


PostPosted: Fri Apr 12, 2019 8:28 am 

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Useful summary of the case in the Times Law Reports

Law Report

April 12 2019, 12:01am, The Times

Drivers using the Uber app are not taxis ‘plying for hire’

Queen’s Bench Division
Published April 12, 2019
Reading Borough Council v Ali
Before Lord Justice Flaux and Mr Justice Holgate
[2019] EWHC 200 (Admin)
Judgment February 7, 2019

An Uber driver using the Uber smartphone app was not a taxi plying for hire.

The Divisional Court of the Queen’s Bench Division so held when dismissing an appeal by way of case stated by Reading borough council against the decision of the senior district judge (chief magistrate) Emma Arbuthnot on July 10, 2018, acquitting the defendant, Mudassar Ali, a driver for Uber London Ltd, of plying for hire without a licence to do so, contrary to section 45 of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847.

Mr Charles Holland for the council; Mr Philip Kolvin, QC, for the defendant.

Lord Justice Flaux said that the defendant, his vehicle and Uber were licensed by Transport for London (TfL) to conduct private hire business pursuant to the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998. Uber had been refused an operating licence by the council. However, if Uber, their vehicles and drivers were conducting a private hire business, they could lawfully operate in Reading with their private hire vehicle licences from TfL. What drivers were not permitted to do was ply for hire, which only licensed hackney carriages are permitted to do.

The defendant was parked in the centre of Reading waiting for a passenger to make a booking for his vehicle via the Uber smartphone app. Two of the council’s licensing enforcement officers who were registered as Uber passengers saw the outline of his vehicle on their app, approached the vehicle and interviewed the defendant. He said he was waiting for a booking through the Uber app.

The defendant was parked lawfully. He was not waiting in a taxi stand, nor was he near a bus stop or stand. The car had no markings indicating it was for hire, but it had two small TfL roundels, one in the back window and one on the front windscreen, which were highly visible and which indicated it was licensed by TfL as a private hire vehicle.

The car was not advertising a number to contact to hire it and was not available to anyone hailing it on the street, but could only be hired via the Uber app.

In his lordship’s judgment, there was no unlawful plying for hire in the present case. The mere depiction of the defendant’s vehicle on the Uber app, without either the vehicle or the driver being specifically identified, or the customer using the app being able to select that vehicle, was insufficient to establish exhibition of the vehicle.

That required not just exhibition of the vehicle but its exhibition expressly or implicitly soliciting custom, inviting members of the public to hire the vehicle. The depiction of the vehicle on the app did not involve any exhibition of that kind, but was for the assistance of the Uber customer using the app, who could see that there were vehicles in the vicinity of the type he or she wished to hire.

The app was simply the use of modern technology to effect a similar transaction to those that had been carried out by private hire vehicle operators over the telephone for many years.

On any view, there was a pre-booking by the customer, which was recorded by Uber as a private hire vehicle operator, before the specific vehicle that would perform the job was identified. That was all in accordance with the transaction being private hire vehicle business, not unlawful plying for hire.

The defendant had been waiting in his vehicle until a customer confirmed a booking on the Uber app and he accepted that booking. There was no soliciting by the defendant without some prior booking, because he proceeded to the pick-up point only after the customer had confirmed the booking and the defendant as driver had accepted the job.

His vehicle did not advertise itself as available for hire nor did he do anything that would have suggested to the public that he was available for hire. If a member of the public had approached the vehicle and sought a ride, the defendant would have refused to take such a passenger off the street without a prior booking through the Uber app.

Solicitors: Head of Legal and Democratic Services, Reading borough council; Woods Whur, Leeds.

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