The High Court has handed down its judgement in the case of United Trade Action Group Ltd, R (On the Application Of) v Transport for London  EWHC 3290 (Admin).
The case involved TfL, Uber, Free Now, United Trade Action Group Ltd ("UTAG") & the App Drivers and Couriers Union.
There were two claims before the court:
- First, Uber, supported by Free Now, claims a declaration that an operator licensed under the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 ("the 1998 Act") who accepts a booking from a passenger is not required by the Act to enter as principal into a contractual obligation with the passenger to provide the journey in respect of that booking. In other words, Uber and Free Now say that Lord Leggatt's suggestion in Uber v Aslam is wrong.
- Second, in judicial review proceedings the United Trade Action Group Ltd ("UTAG"), the trade association for (among others) hackney carriage (or black cab) drivers, seeks to quash the decision made on 9th August 2020 by Transport for London ("TfL") as the regulator to renew Free Now's operator's licence under the 1998 Act.
On the first issue, Lord Justice Males and Mr Justice Fraser ruled that Lord Leggatt in Uber v Aslam was correct (see paragraphs 27 to 33), concluding that:
"Accordingly we grant a declaration in both proceedings that in order to operate lawfully under the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 a licensed operator who accepts a booking from a passenger is required to enter as principal into a contractual obligation with the passenger to provide the journey which is the subject of the booking."
As a consequence (paragraphs 35 to 36):
- As we have concluded that, in order to operate lawfully, an operator must undertake a contractual obligation to passengers, and as both Uber and Free Now acknowledge that they do not at present do so, they will need to amend the basis on which they provide their services. Both companies have indicated that they will do so if that is what the court concludes.
- It follows also that TfL will need to reconsider its current practice which is that it does not review the contractual terms of an operator when considering a licence application. Since an operator which does not undertake the required contractual obligation is not operating lawfully, TfL will need to consider how best to ensure that the basis on which Uber, Free Now and perhaps other similar operators conduct their operations is in accordance with the requirements of the 1998 Act.
Regarding the second claim, Mr Justice Fraser ruled that Lord Leggatt concluded that:
"It is therefore our duty to follow Reading v Ali. We conclude, therefore, that Free Now does not facilitate or encourage its drivers to ply for hire and that this ground of challenge to TfL's decision to grant it an operator's licence must fail."
They therefore dismissed UTAG's claim for judicial review although UTAG permission was granted permission to appeal.