Unlawful taxis – “plying for hire”

November 24, 2020

As a result of lockdown, many people have found themselves looking for alternative ways to make some income.  It might seem a good idea to jump in your car and see if you can make money as a taxi driver – but it isn’t that straight forward.

Taxis are heavily regulated.  Any form or taxi or private hire must be licensed in order to carry passengers – and without a licence a person would be committing an offence if they were asking people in a public place to hire their vehicle or transport them as a passenger.  Undercover police officers in places such as Manchester work with the council taxi enforcement officers to patrol the city on the lookout for people operating as unlawful taxis.  The moment the driver accepts a fare an offence has been committed. If pulled over the officers will check if the vehicle is insured and interview the driver, and a case could then be built to prosecute the driver.

If you are found guilty of “plying for hire” without a licence – you could face a fine up to £2500. You could also potentially be disqualified from driving as at the point the offence would’ve been committed the insurance of the vehicle would be invalidated.  Therefore this could lead to 6-8 points on your licence or a period of disqualification.

If you want to look into the lawful way of becoming a taxi driver, then you need to know that the system allows for two types of licence, the first is licensed for hackney carriages (black cab) or taxis which can be driven on the street; the second is private hire vehicles which have to be booked via a licensed operator, and this includes services such as Uber. 

How does Uber work?

Uber is a licensed private hire vehicle operator, in order to drive an Uber you will need a private hire licence from a council that is Uber licenced by. The customer will have downloaded the Uber app and communicates with the Uber driver via a server which they will request a car. As soon as you open the Uber app the customer can see what cars are available in the area, when entering a destination gets an estimate price and requests a booking.

The nearest driver is given ten seconds to accept the request but is not told the destination, if the driver accepts, Uber confirms and records the booking and allocated the journey to the driver. Uber provides the details to both the driver and customer and the driver will go to collect the customer, the customer doesn’t get a choice in the driver or car.

Is Uber legal?

Obviously Uber operates widely across the country.   But not long ago, Reading Borough Council brought a prosecution against a Mr Ali as a test case; with the issue being whether the Uber model of using an app should lead to the conclusion there was unlawful plying for hire, as opposed to being a lawful licenced taxi service.

The chief magistrate in the case decided Mr Ali was not plying for hire.  She considered factors including the fact that Mr Ali did not wait, stand or drive around looking for passengers and accepted that the process of booking through an app complied with the law relating to licenced taxis having to book their customers in advance. 

How can we help?

We are experts in all aspects of road traffic law and if you would like to discuss any aspect of your case relating to this or any other road traffic matter, please contact Tuckers Solicitors on 0845 200 3667, alternatively you can email info@tuckerssolicitors.com