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Court to hear JR over grant of operator’s licence for FREENOW ride-hailing app Published Date: 03/05/2021

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.

United Trade Action Group (UTAG) was granted permission to judicially review a decision by Transport for London to grant Transopco UK Ltd an operator’s licence. The principal issue surrounds the use of the FREENOW ride-hailing app although the outcome of the JR will apply more generally to whether instant ride-hailing could be interpreted as “plying for hire”.

It was reported that Mrs Justice Lang held that it was arguably unlawful for TfL to have granted an Operator’s Licence, because Transopco 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’.

UTAG Director Trevor Merralls, is reported to have said the case will focus heavily on how private hire vehicles (PHV) cannot be pre-booked on the app, but licensed taxis can. On the same FREE NOW app, PHV’s can however be ordered via an ‘immediate pre-booking’, which has drawn discussion over what is an immediate hail and what is a pre-booked journey.