This week, Uber was successful in appealing a decision of
Brighton and Hover Council not to renew its operating licence.

Whilst the appeal was heard in the Magistrates Court and
therefore carries no strict judicial authority, the conclusions drawn by the
District Judge in this case is useful, well-reasoned and a useful contribution
to the ongoing debate about the legalities of cross-border hiring.

The Council

Whilst the grounds for the initial refusal also included the
handling of a data breach by Uber, the scope of the appeal was reduced to the
question of Uber’s use of out of town vehicles.

Brighton and Hover Council argued that this approach has caused
an “…influx of drivers from out of area and specific encouragement for drivers
to apply for licences out of area e.g. Lewes facilitates a circumvention of the
local standards and creates barriers to enforcement of those standards
necessary and particularised to meet the particular demographic of the local
area.”

The key to the council’s argument was that Uber’s use of out
of town vehicles had “…eroded the trust in the company which resulted in the
finding against fit and properness.”

The council stated that on the proviso that Uber accept the imposition
of a number of conditions, it would be satisfied that Uber is fit and proper.

Uber

Uber for its part did not agree with this approach arguing
that 1) cross-bordering is a statutory right, 2) the imposition of conditions would
be unlawful (as it would restrict this statutory right) and 3) the definition
of fit and proper could not be reduced to whether Uber was willing to accept
the imposition of conditions or not.

The judgement

District Judge Szagun’s conclusions in this case can be
summarised as:

         
“The licensing “triple lock” and “right to roam” are clearly
embodied within this statutory regime and endorsed by the case law as set out
above.

         
Fit and properness is unequivocal, it relates to
the personal characteristics and
qualifications reasonably required of a person
doing whatever it is that
the applicant seeks permission to do.

         
The imposition of conditions or policies restricting statutory rights is unlawful.

         
Equally, “any
other reasonable cause” (s.62(d)) is not a lawful or means to circumvent
or undermine a statutory right
and therefore lawful grounds for refusal of
a licence.

Stephen McCaffrey

Regulatory Barrister specialising in taxi and private hire licensing law.

Head of Taxi Defence Barristers and Taxi Defence Scotland.

Stephen McCaffrey

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