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.
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 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.
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.