The bigger the business, the greater the risk of regulatory breaches, however, in a guideline case, innovative cab company Uber London Limited (ULL) convinced a judge that the stringent steps it had taken to stamp them out rendered it a 'fit and proper person' to hold a private hire vehicle operator's licence.

ULL appealed to Westminster Magistrates' Court after Transport for London (TfL) refused to renew its licence in November 2019, citing a history of breaches that were said to have placed the travelling public at risk. The Court considered ULL's licence application afresh on the basis of the most up-to-date evidence.

Ruling on the matter, the Court noted that ULL engages 45,000 drivers who provide trips to about three million Londoners each month and that enterprises on such a scale require implementation of enhanced systems and processes which are capable of properly mitigating risks to public safety.

In response to TfL's decision, ULL had taken a range of measures, including making extensive changes to its software, with the aim of reducing the number of regulatory breaches to zero. They were designed to tackle such issues as drivers using false photos, insurance documents or MoT certificates. Steps had also been taken to ensure swift de-activation of drivers against whom complaints of sexual or other serious misconduct had been received.

Upholding the appeal, the Court found that ULL had taken its regulatory obligations seriously. The changes introduced seemed to have placed it at the forefront of tackling such industry-wide challenges as identity fraud. The measures that ULL had taken were perhaps even more rigorous than would be expected of a reasonable business in the private hire vehicle sector.

ULL did not have a perfect record, but the steps it had taken had resulted in an improving picture of reduced numbers of regulatory breaches. The 'fit and proper person' test did not in any event require perfection. ULL's board had heightened its oversight of the business and the level of the company's engagement with TfL had clearly improved. ULL was granted an operator's licence for a period of 18 months, subject to conditions agreed with TfL.

For help or advice on this or related business matters, please speak to Baljit Chohan b.chohan@sydneymitchell.co.uk on 0808 166 8827

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