Reading Council press release.
TWO private hire drivers who tried to take advantage of an Uber incentive encouraging drivers to operate in Reading have been prosecuted for illegally plying for hire.
Bruno Cardoso, of Portlock Road, Maidenhead and Abrar Hussain, of Cannon Gate, Slough, were fined a total of £475 and ordered to pay costs of £700 after admitting to licensing offences at Reading Magistrates Court on Friday 26th May 2017.
Both drivers are licensed by Transport for London and worked for private hire operator Uber when they responded to the company’s incentive scheme called the ‘Reading Reward Zone’.
The initiative guaranteed that the first 150 drivers to log on in the Reading Reward Zone would be guaranteed between £15 and £25 per hour, depending on which hours they worked.
This encouraged Uber drivers to ply for hire in Reading where the company was refused a Private Hire Operator’s licence in March 2016.
Mr Cardoso, 35, admitted plying for hire in Garrard Street, in Reading Town Centre, on 27th October 2016. He was fined £155 and ordered to pay costs of £200.
Mr Hussain, 38, admitted four offences of plying for hire; twice in Valpy Street on 27th October 2016, and once in Valpy Street and once in Victoria Street, off King’s Road, on 28th October 2016. He was fined £80 for each offence and ordered to pay costs of £500.
Councillor Sarah Hacker, Reading’s Lead Member for Consumer Services, said:
“I would like to congratulate the Council’s Licensing and Legal teams for these successful prosecutions.
“The licensing regulations for taxi and private hire operators and drivers are there to protect the public and it is absolutely right that action is taken against those who flout the rules.
“I hope these prosecutions send a loud and clear message to private hire drivers and operators licensed outside of Reading that they cannot come into town and operate illegally.”
Reading Borough Council refused an application for a Private Hire Vehicle Operator’s Licence for Uber in March 2016 on the ground that the Sub-Committee did not consider the applicant to be a fit and proper person to hold such a licence by reason of:
a. Not being able to manage the operation within the standard conditions that were attached to private hire vehicle operator’s licence;
b. Not being able to show that he could comply with current conditions that could lead to vehicles not operating according to the Council’s private hire operator conditions;
c. There being insufficient evidence as to the demand for the service in Reading;
d. There being no clear evidence as to the number of vehicles needed to operate the service
e. There being no clear evidence as to how the Uber office was to be manned on a daily basis.
This is a significant step in the battle with app based private hire operators. A licencing authority that had refused Uber an operator licence has fought back against the American ridesharing company’s disregard for local control of private hire services.
The London licenced drivers would seem to have been convicted of illegally plying for hire, because they had the app open at the time on arrest, thereby making themselves visible to the public via the passenger version of the app.
Unite raised this very point (and continues to raise it), in its response to TfL’s 2015 Private Hire review. Arguing that the app by showing vehicle positions and availability, are allowing the drivers to ‘virtually’ ply for hire.
From Unite’s response to TfL’s 2015 Private Hire review…
Regulating Private Hire Apps
Some private Hire Apps allows users to request a vehicle directly to their location at the press of a button, with the fare being calculated and debited from a bank account automatically via a smartphone. It is Unite’s view that Private Hire booking Apps should not be able to show the position of available vehicles and the estimated time of arrival.
Unite believe that showing the position of drivers on the App before the booking is made is a virtual hailing, effectively allowing plying for hire by private hire vehicles. This encourages private hire vehicles to park and wait, often illegally and to the frustration of residents and other road users, waiting for a booking.
By parking and waiting this encourages App users to ‘virtually see’ the vehicle and to make the booking without using the App.
Once the booking is made on the App then the passenger will receive all of the details that are required under the licensing conditions and any other details the Operator wishes to send.
For this reason Unite believes that it is wrong to allow private hire booking apps to display the location and ETA of vehicles on the user’s phone before the booking is made. This is ‘virtual’ plying for hire without the safe guards that are in place for taxis,
Given the result, Unite will continue to press local authorities up and down the country to follow Reading’s lead and start prosecuting app based drivers on the same basis.
Unite will also continue to lobby Government for a change in the Law and bring to an end the chaos caused by cross border hirings and the 2015 Deregulation Act.
Unite’s response to TfL in full can be found here