Tuesday 6th February saw the Licensed Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA) challenge Transport for London (TfL) in the High Court. The LPHCA brought a case against the regulator’s new operator fee structure that was introduced in October 2017.
The new fees mean that many of London’s private hire operators face huge cost increases. For example, an operator with over 11 vehicles faces a rise of between £3,174 and £2,897,174 for a 5-year licence, which had previously cost just £2,826. The measures were implemented following a brief 8-week consultation and despite many objections from within the private hire industry.
The purpose of this first hearing was to challenge TfL’s Operator fees increases, in the hope of securing a judicial review in which the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body can be assessed. Following a full day in session, Mr Justice Dingemans granted permission to the LPHCA to apply for judicial review on the grounds of ‘improper purpose’ and ‘sufficiency of information relating to the consultation’.
The ground for ‘improper purpose’ was that TfL may be using operator fees for other areas of licensing not associated with operator licensing and compliance. The ‘sufficiency of information relating to the consultation’ ground was due to the fact that TfL needed to supply figures explaining the rationality of the fee increases, meaning that consultees could not make a rational decision.
The review cannot come soon enough for many operators. TfL’s own figures obtained via a freedom of information act request, show how many are going out of business since the introduction of new fees. The LPHCA’s application for ‘interim relief’ to try and stop the fee increases immediately was not granted, although the Judge accepted that there was a matter of urgency for early Judicial Review. The hearing was therefore scheduled for Wednesday 25th April 2018 in the High Court.
The LPHCA started a campaign and set up a fighting fund to help towards running the legal case. Their fighting fund appeal reached the ‘phase one’ target of £115,000 to cover the approximate costs of mounting the challenge. Over 50 LPHCA Members, Operators and Industry Suppliers generously donated. The fundraising process is to continue as the legal costs are set to dramatically increase.
The target for ‘phase two’ of the fighting fund sits at £150,000 with the ultimate target being £200,000 and the LPHCA are imploring anyone within the industry who can donate to the cause, to do so now. This can be done via the LPHCA website.
The LPHCA have also called an Emergency Meeting on March 21st at the Marriott hotel in Heathrow. It is free-to-attend for Private Hire Operators and Industry Suppliers. An update on the court case and fighting fund will be provided, followed by a discussion of a number of other important industry topics, including:
- Proposals to remove the Congestion Charge exemption for London PHV drivers
- English Language tests
- Additional mandatory fleet insurance
- Enhanced topographical tests
- Extra driver training
- Calls to abolish the 2-tier system
- Installing CCTV’s in every PHV & Taxi
- Only being able to pick up or drop off journeys starting or finishing in your licensed area
LPHCA Chairman Steve Wright has stated many times that he sees the fight against operator fees as being pivotal for the industry. It’s his belief that the new operator fees will decimate many smaller operators. Drivers and consumers face being left at the whim of the market’s big players, such as Uber (if they’re relicensed) and Addison Lee.
If this battle is lost, it is also his opinion that TfL will be able to proceed, in the face of minimal resistance, with the introduction of several of the measures listed above. Many of which will significantly affect a London PH driver ability to earn a living.
If you wish to attend the meeting, pre-registration is required, which can be done by clicking here. In the meantime, we will keep you informed of any progress updates.