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Divisional Court to hear judicial review over grant by TfL of private operator’s licence to business behind FREENOW ride-hailing app

A High Court judge has given the United Trade Action Group (UTAG), a body representing the interests of the hackney carriage trade, permission to judicially review the decision of TfL to grant a Private Hire Operator’s Licence to a business whose private hire drivers work off a smartphone ride-hailing app called FREENOW.

Francis Taylor Building said Mrs Justice Lang had held, on a renewed oral application for permission, that it was arguably unlawful for TfL to have granted an Operator’s Licence to Transopco, because Transopco:

(a) facilitated and encouraged private hire drivers to work off a ride-hailing app despite it being unlawful for private hire vehicles to ‘ply for hire’ on London’s roads, and

(b) required private hire drivers to accept private hire bookings without themselves holding operators licences.

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FTB added that Mrs Justice Lang had ordered that the case should be heard before a Divisional Court “given its great importance and potential implications for private hire operators and drivers generally”.

David Matthias QC and Charles Streeten of FTB appeared for UTAG.

A TfL spokesperson said, “We note the judge’s decision to grant permission for a judicial review and will robustly defend our position in court.”

A FREE NOW spokesperson said: "The claim that using a ride-hailing app is equal to plying for hire is entirely baseless. It has been raised against other ride-hailing app operators in the past and thrown out due to its lack of validity. FREE NOW accepts private hire vehicle bookings as an operator and distributes them to drivers. This is in line with current regulations and is clearly depicted in the app as well as our terms and conditions. There is no way in which drivers working for FREE NOW can directly solicit or accept the booking themselves and UTAG has not provided any evidence to the contrary. We will continue to support TfL in defending their position in court."

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