Transport for London (TfL), along with Uber, the Licensed Taxi Driver Association and the Licensed Private Hire Car Association asked the High Court to make a declaration on whether smartphones, which use GPS technology and connect to external servers for the calculation of fares, comply with the law which prohibits taximeters in private hire vehicles in London. TfL’s view has always been that smartphones are not taximeters. However, it recognised the validity of arguments to the contrary and the significant public interest in establishing legal certainty in the matter. High Court declares that smartphones used in private hire vehicles are not taximeters
· TfL welcomes legal clarity on the issue
· All stakeholders urged to help shape a thriving, customer-focused private hire industry
The High Court has today declared that smartphones used by some private hire drivers are not taximeters.
In his written judgment Mr Justice Ouseley declared that:
“A taximeter, for the purposes of Section 11 of the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998, is not a device which receives GPS signals in the course of a journey, and forwards GPS data to a server located outside of the vehicle, which calculates a fare that is partially or wholly determined by reference to distance travelled and time taken, and sends the fare information back to the device.”
Mr Justice Ouseley said that whilst the smartphone with the driver’s app may be essential to enabling the calculation of fares to take place, that did not make it a device “for” calculating fares in breach of the taximeter prohibition. He also found that it was drivers, not their vehicles, who are “equipped” with smartphones.
With the legal position now clarified, TfL will continue to work with a wide range of stakeholders to deliver safe, modern and innovative taxi and private hire services to the benefit of customers.
The latest step in that comes with the current public consultation on the regulations that govern the private hire trade, which were written well before new technologies and innovative business models widened the choices available to customers.
The consultation also comes at a time of very rapid growth in the private hire sector. The number of private hire drivers has risen from around 59,000 in 2009/10 to over 89,000 today. At the current rate of growth, the total number could rise to 128,000 over the next two years. The Mayor has recently renewed his call to Government to give TfL powers to cap the number of private hire vehicles in London to address rising traffic congestion and illegal parking and to help improve air quality.
This follows a recent analysis of Congestion Charging data that shows a huge increase in the number of licensed Private Hire Vehicles observed within the zone during charging hours. In September 2012 an average of 448 licensed Private Hire Vehicles were observed each day in the Congestion Charge zone. In August 2015 this figure had increased to 13,151 – which is a 29-fold increase.
TfL is encouraging its partners in the taxi and private hire trades, business and members of the public to contribute to the consultation and help shape the future.
Leon Daniels, TfL’s Managing Director of Surface Transport, said: "With legal certainty established over taximeters, we will continue to work hard with all of our stakeholders to deliver taxi and private hire services which meet the needs of modern London.
"Disruptive technology and new business models have radically changed the way that taxi and private hire services operate and has widened customer choice. This is welcome. At the same time, as the regulator, we must ensure that regulatory requirements are met and are developed in a way that delivers the high standards customers deserve.
“As part of this, we are gauging public opinion on a range of potential changes to private hire regulations, including stricter rules on insurance and English language skills. We know that some ideas put forward for consultation are controversial, which is why we want as many people as possible to tell us what they think to help shape the future of private hire in London.”
The consultation closes on 23 December. People can respond to the consultation at: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/tph/private-hire-proposals
· The High Court declaration will be published here: https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/judgments/
· Details of the original Private Hire Regulations Review consultation (which ran from 27 March to 19 June 2015) can be found here: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/tph/private-hire-regulations-review
· TfL’s vision for the future of the taxi and private hire trade is published here: https://tfl.gov.uk/cdn/static/cms/documents/taxi-and-private-hire-strategy2.pdf