Ride-hailing giant is seeking a declaration that private operators accepting a booking do not enter into a contract with passengers.
Uber has been accused of mounting a ‘collateral attack’ on a landmark Supreme Court ruling as the ride-hailing giant seeks a declaration from the High Court that private hire operators accepting a booking do not enter into a contract with passengers.
The UK’s highest court ruled in February that Uber drivers are workers and therefore entitled to holiday pay and the national minimum wage.
Giving the unanimous judgment of the court, Lord Leggatt said that ‘the only contractual arrangement compatible with the licensing regime’ under the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 was one where Uber ‘accepts private hire bookings as a principle’ and ‘enters into a contract with a transportation provider … who agrees to carry out the booking for Uber’.
Uber has now applied to the High Court for a declaration to ‘clarify’ the law, arguing that Leggatt’s statements were obiter and that the 1998 act does not imply a contractual arrangement with passengers.
Ranjit Bhose QC, for Uber, said in written submissions that ‘the 1998 act does not require an operator to contract as principal with the passenger to provide the journey in respect of a private hire booking that it has accepted’.
Rather, he said, 'it requires that an operator who has accepted such a booking thereby assumes all the regulatory responsibilities of an operator under the 1998 act, but contains no requirements as to the contractual relationship(s) that may arise between the driver and/or operator and the passenger.’
However, the App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU) – whose president, Yaseen Aslam, was the lead claimant in the Supreme Court case – told the High Court that Uber’s ‘stance in these proceedings is wholly at odds’ with the findings of the employment tribunal, which was ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court.
‘The ADCU maintains that there has been no material change in the facts and circumstances on which the decision of the employment tribunal was based – and certainly no evidence has been put before the court of any material change,’ Jason Galbraith-Marten QC argued in written submissions.
Galbraith-Marten said assertions made in a witness statement by Uber’s regional general manager for northern and eastern Europe – which said Uber does not enter into a contract with its passengers but merely acts as agent for its drivers – was ‘little more than a collateral attack on the decision of the employment tribunal, notwithstanding the decision of the Supreme Court’.
The hearing, before Lord Justice Males and Mr Justice Fraser, continues.