Friday, 20 June 2014

Uber, Unlicensed Minicab Firm? By Jim Thomas.

It has come to our attention that on the 22 May 2014, Uber London Ltd moved to a new registered operating centre on the first floor of Focus Point, 21 Caledonian Road Islington, from the former Winchester House Old  Marylebone Road.

It would appear (referring to the TfL private hire checker) that Uber are licensed to operate from registered offices within the City of Westminster. After checking TfLs PH licence checker again, we found that Uber have no such licence to operate from within the London borough of Islington. 

Either TfLs website is incorrect, or Uber hasn't submitted a PHV/106 variation application form. 

The private hire act 1998
The legislation contained within the PH Act of 1998 is very clear on this issue. If A licensed PH company is operating from unlicensed premises, their licence should be immediately revoked (Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998.s.16 and also the TfL staff manual  10.5)

The legislation does not say TfL should give them a period of time to sort the issue out, it clearly states their licence should be immediately revoked. 

We have written to Sir a Peter Hendy outlining this complaint and due to the serious nature of this issue, we expected a swift reply.
As of today, we have received no reply. 


Taxis and private hire vehicles: the road to reform - Transport Committee Contents Dec 2010

Written evidence from London Suburban Taxi-drivers' Coalition (TPH 35)

In response to the above consultation, we would like you to take into consideration the following items regarding the London Suburban Hackney Carriage issues.

(1)  Publish documentation to define where London Suburban Hackney Carriage drivers can accept pre-booked work when outside of their licensed sector, but are still within the Greater London Authority's controlled licensing zone.

Luke Howard, Senior Strategy & Integration Manager, TfL Taxi & Private Hire was asked this question about a year ago, including "What Act of Parliament prohibits suburban drivers from doing so".

His reply was "...As I said, the prohibition on drivers accepting bookings outside their area is a matter of how 'plying for hire' should be interpreted in this context. There is no paperwork as it is simply the advice of our legal team—we do not think this has been tested in court."

We were not shown what the legal advice was or even if it came in a written form.

We believe it is time to properly define this matter once and for all so that the ambiguities of the law are removed. As you know many suburban drivers are prosecuted for out-of-sector violations and the law must be clarified. Suburban Taxi drivers should not be playing "Russian Roulette" when they go out to work. If the law is unclear or untested it is surely time to review, amend or draft more up-to-date legislation to cover this aspect of their working lives.

The Office of Fair Trading state in their Legal framework of taxi and PHV licensing in the UK, Annexe A, November 2003

1.10  Taxis can pick up passengers that have pre-booked without needing a separate PHV licence.

"A campaign to reduce the number of women sexually attacked in minicabs over Christmas was launched, in the wake of a 54% increase in serious sexual assaults including rape and a 50% decrease in detection/conviction. The scheme aims to warn Londoners about the dangers of getting into minicabs without pre-booking and to help them get home safely."

However, leaders of the Safer Travel at Night (STaN) scheme say women are putting themselves in danger by getting into minicabs (licensed and unlicensed) that line up outside pubs and clubs and are given an 'air of respectability' by TfL in doing so. This is clearly wrong and needs to be addressed. Reports from the "Havens Rape Crisis Centres" have shown much higher figures. They also state that most rapes go unreported, so the true figure could be even higher.

We believe that if London Suburban Hackney Carriage drivers were allowed to pick up the pre-booked hiring's when outside of their licensed sector, but still within the Greater London Authority's controlled licensing zone, then this would go, not only some way to reducing the serious sexual assaults, including rape, but also reduce the carbon emissions issue by utilising those taxis to bring passengers back into their licensed sectors with a better utilisation of these vehicles.

(2)  We would like to have rescinded or amended the 12 mile (or one hour's duration) rule in respect of suburban drivers. It is most unfair that London Suburban Hackney Carriage drivers are the only licensed drivers in England and Wales that are compelled to accept a 12 mile hiring which in most cases take them well outside their licensed sectors.

We believe that this issue is a restrictive practice and places an unfair disadvantage on London Suburban Hackney Carriage drivers as a whole as their sectors are much smaller than that of the All-London (Green Badge) drivers, who in many more instances can do a 12 mile hiring and still be well within the area for which they are licensed.

Being compelled to accept a hiring from a smaller sector makes having to accept a hiring so far away from where they are permitted to ply for hire is indeed unreasonable compared to their Green Badge counterparts. It would be more tolerable if this 12 mile compulsion was reduced to eight (8) miles or even to the previous six (6) miles. It is our understanding that this ruling was changed due to problems of "refusal" that arose primarily in the All-London area and the consequent changes placed an unnecessary burden on suburban drivers when the rule was changed under Ken Livingstone's Mayoral term of office.

There is a precedent for a differential in the compellable distance where it was amended to 20 miles in respect of hiring's from Heathrow Airport several years ago.

There are more issues that really do need to be discussed in relation to the London Suburban Taxi service we provide, but as requested we need to keep this letter short, but would appreciate it if we could meet and present our views to members of the Transport Select Committee in the near future.

(3)  We believe it would be helpful if the terms "minicabs", "licensed minicabs", "unlicensed minicabs" and Licensed Private Hire were more clearly defined as there is a lot of confusion at present even in the literature that TfL provide.

If it confuses those in the trade it must be quite perplexing to the travelling public who may be the victims of unclear definitions.

This does not occur with licensed taxis as ANY taxi is by its very nature "Licensed". There is no such thing as an "unlicensed" taxi even though the newspapers AND the TV media often talk about misdemeanours by a taxi driver (to make the headline "sensational") but in reality the driver often turns out to be a minicab driver (whatever that is).

TfL must bear the brunt of this criticism through poor descriptive terms in its documentation. If any person trying to get through to a Taxi operator and gores on the Internet they are almost always directed to a Private Hire company in spite of the fact that these companies are contravening the Licensed Private Hire (Vehicles) Act 1998 to advertise in this way, and in spite of the warnings not to do so by TfL.

December 2010


Thursday, 19 June 2014

Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998.s.16 : Power to suspend or revoke licences.

Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998.s.16

Power to suspend or revoke licences.

(2)A London PHV operator’s licence may be suspended or revoked where—
(a)the [F1licensing authority] is no longer satisfied that the licence holder is fit to hold such a licence; or
(b)the licence holder has failed to comply with any condition of the licence or any other obligation imposed on him by or under this Act.
s. 18 Variation of operator’s licence at the request of the operator.

(1)The [F1licensing authority] may, on the application of a London PHV operator, vary his licence by adding a reference to a new operating centre or removing an existing reference to an operating centre.

(2)An application for the variation of a licence under this section shall be made in such form, and include such declarations and information, as the [F1licensing authority] may require.

(3)The [F1licensing authority] may require an applicant to furnish such further information as he may consider necessary for dealing with the application.

(4)The [F1licensing authority] shall not add a reference to a new operating centre unless [F2the authority] is satisfied that the premises in question meet any requirements prescribed under section 3(3)(b).

(5)An applicant for the variation of a London PHV operator’s licence under this section may appeal to a magistrates’ court against a decision not to add a new operating centre to the licence.

s. 19 (1)The [F2licensing authority] may—
(a)suspend the operation of a London PHV operator’s licence so far as relating to any operating centre specified in the licence; or
(b)vary such a licence by removing a reference to an operating centre previously specified in the licence,
if [F3the authority] is no longer satisfied that the operating centre in question meets any requirements prescribed under section 3(3)(b) or for any other reasonable cause. 

(2)Where the [F2licensing authority] has decided to suspend the operation of a licence as mentioned in subsection (1)(a) or vary a licence as mentioned in subsection (1)(b)—
(a)[F3the authority] shall give notice of the decision and the grounds for it to the licence holder; and
(b)the decision shall take effect at the end of the period of 21 days beginning with the day on which the licence holder is served with that notice.

(3)If the [F2licensing authority] is of the opinion that the interests of public safety require [F3 authority’s] decision to have immediate effect, and [F3the authority] includes a statement of that opinion and the reasons for it in the notice, [F3 authority’s] decision shall take effect when the notice is served on the licence holder.

(4)If a licence is suspended in relation to an operating centre, the premises in question shall not be regarded for the purposes of this Act as premises at which the licence holder is authorised to accept private hire bookings, until such time as the [F2licensing authority] by notice states that the licence is no longer suspended in relation to those premises.

(5)The holder of a London PHV operator’s licence may appeal to a magistrates’ court against a decision under subsection (1).

London Taxi an Private Hire Staff Manual. 

10.5 Change of/acquisition of new operating centre 
If an operator wishes to change the address of an operating centre or add an operating centre to his licence he must submit a PHV/106 variation application form. Arrangements will be made for the new operating centre to be inspected before the licence is changed. A licence will not be varied to add reference to a new centre until that centre has been approved by a Compliance Officer following an inspection. The operator must not begin trading from the new address until it has been included on his licence. 

If an operator is found to be trading from an operating centre not specified in his licence he should reported for prosecution, told to cease trading from that premises and submit a variation application immediately. In most cases this should not preclude the variation application being considered favourably. However, if an operator is found trading from a nightclub or other late night venue (see section 10.15) that is not specified as an operating centre in his licence any subsequent application to vary the licence to include that centre should be refused. 

If TfL becomes aware that an operator has started trading from a centre not on his licence on more than one occasion, consideration should be given to revoking his licence.

If, having been told to cease trading, an operator continues to trade from the unlicensed premises and fails to submit a variation application within 14 days of the visit from a Compliance Officer, consideration should be given to revoking the licence.

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