On 20 January 2016, in what Uber termed as “a victory for common sense” , Transport for London (“TFL”) surrendered to its critics and abandoned the majority of the proposed measures it put forth in its September 2015 Consultation paper aimed at reforming the rules concerning private hire operators, private hire drivers, private hire insurance, and private hire licensing.

Since March 2015, TFL has been conducting a wide-ranging review into private hire vehicle regulations. As we reported in our previous post (http://eu-competitionlaw.com/cma-criticises-tfls-proposed-new-regulations-for-private-hire-vehicle-companies/), TFL’s suggested measures were heavily criticized, not least by the Competitions and Markets Authority (“CMA”) who opined that the proposals, including requirements that customers wait a minimum of five minutes to be picked up and prohibitions on operators showing vehicles available for booking on an app map, would impose significant restrictions and burdens on companies like Uber.

Whilst TFL has decided not to pursue most of the 25 proposals, it will continue over a further four-week consultation period to explore requirements for:

  • a minimum level of spoken English for all drivers;
  • the provision of fare estimates to customers at the beginning of every journey, whether requested or not;
  • the provision of driver and vehicle details to customers before every journey, including a photograph of the driver; and
  • a customer helpline.

Conceding that the proposals “did not find widespread support”, London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, showed support for the decision by stating “we can’t disinvent the internet or apps, they’re making things much easier in our city”. However, in light of TFL’s estimate that the number of minicabs in London has increased by 50% in the last 2 years, and spurred on by concerns over increasing pollution and congestion in the city, the London Mayor has since recommended that private hire vehicles should pay the congestion charge; a move which would require a change in the law.

We await the outcome of the further consultation period, which will be put to the TFL Board on 17 March 2016.