Ola, the world’s third largest app-based operator of private hire vehicles (“PHV”) and taxis, with some 1.5 million drivers globally, has a new 15-month London private hire operator’s licence following their successful appeal against Transport for London’s (“TfL”) decision not to renew their licence when it expired back in October 2020. The case was reported in The Telegraph on 17 December 2021.
In the course of the appeal hearing before Deputy Chief Magistrate Ikram at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, on 14 December 2021 TfL and Ola agreed to a series of “strict conditions” following “a number of steps” taken by Ola to ease safety concerns. The Court agreed that Ola was a “fit and proper person” to hold a London operator’s licence and approved a consent order allowing the appeal.
TfL had previously given notice that they would not renew the licence held by Ola when it expired in October 2020 due to a number of failures that had potential public safety consequences, including historic breaches of the licensing regime that led to unlicensed drivers and vehicles undertaking passenger trips on behalf of Ola. Ola self-reported these issues, which related to driver on-boarding processes, to TfL in August 2020
Ola had appealed the decision and have been able to continue to operate in London while the case was ongoing.
A spokesman for TfL said that since their decision “Ola has taken a number of steps to resolve the issues identified by TfL”. The new licence includes conditions requiring better procedures for reporting information relating to drivers to the authority. Ola will also have to comply with the recent High Court ruling that operators must contract with passengers rather than merely act as an agent for drivers: Uber London Ltd –v- TfL, UTAG, ADCU and Transopco (UK) Ltd  EWHC 3290.
Ola said “we welcome the licensing decision, which reflects our continuous commitment and proactive approach to providing safe and reliable services in London and the steps we have taken in the last 14 months. We will comply with the requirements set out in the order. We look forward to continue working closely and collaboratively with TfL and providing our services to riders and drivers in London”.
Ola launched in London in February 2020 and is one of London’s largest PHV operators (it is one of only three PHV operators with a licence to operate more than 10,000 vehicles and now has some 37,000 drivers). The Ola Group is headquartered in Bangalore, India and operates across three continents. In the UK, Ola holds some 80 operator’s licences and, in addition to London, operates in major cities including Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool and Cardiff.
In the appeal hearing Ola were represented by Tom de la Mare QC (Blackstone Chambers) and Gary Grant (Francis Taylor Building) instructed by Tom Cassels, Joanne Finnegan, Katy Blake and Rose Lynch of Linklaters. TfL were represented by Marie Demetriou QC and Tim Johnston (both of Brick Court Chambers).