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Saturday 9 March 2019

TfL Declares Cribble UNLAWFUL

[Update at end of post]

Still claiming that its service will launch in London on March 11 - that’s next Monday - new private hire market entrant Cribble has taken a highly combative approach to anyone claiming that its operating model is anything but totally above board. But when those behind it picked a scrap with Transport for London last week, this was destined to become a campaign that was to develop not necessarily to their advantage.
Cribble put out a statement on Thursday under the heading “TfL threatens Cribble”, seemingly unaware that, ultimately, their operating licence is in TfL’s gift. Their target was Michael Stack, who is TfL’s interim head of licensing for Taxi and Private Hire.

They told that Stack “has threatened Cribble in a letter to Pro Transfers [sic] Limited. Stack said ‘It is appropriate to warn you that should you look to introduce this solution, we will consider whether licensing action is required to be taken against you as the operator and also against any driver who was available to you and has accepted a booking made via this proposed channel’”. So what did this mean for the new entrant?

it meant “This means that TFL might take action if Cribble goes live on March 11 … However, the threat is idle since according to Stack ‘We recognise that this is a complex area of the law and any decision will need to be carefully considered taking into consideration the circumstances of each case’ … This means that TFL can't find any laws that are broken”. There was, however, a later update.
Stack has finally come up with a specific complaint. He asserts that displaying some driver and vehicle information and allowing the client to make a selection on that basis is ‘unlawful plying for hire’ and refers to a similar case that was lost to Uber … The argument seems to be that a client can pick an UberX but can't pick a 2015 black Toyota with a friendly name of Fred”. Yeah, yah boo TfL! Swivel on that!

Well, TfL decided the very next day that they weren’t going to swivel on anything, as they released their own statement, from Graham Robinson, General Manager for London Taxi and Private Hire. In it, Robinson effectively declared that Cribble was unlawful.

I kid you not. “We have been approached about a new PHV booking App called Cribble which we understand is due to launch on Monday 11 March in London … Based on our understanding of how the App works, any Private Hire drivers working via the app would be plying for hire which is unlawful”. Ouch! And there was more.
Any licensed Private Hire driver found to be plying for hire - through the Cribble App or otherwise - risks prosecution and licensing action by TfL … Should the position change in relation to the App, drivers will be notified as appropriate”. All of which suggests that the combative statement put out by Cribble may not have had the desired effect.

Now that TfL has ruled - for the time being - on the lawfulness of the Cribble App, it will be interesting to see how many of those Private Hire drivers are prepared to work that App come Monday morning. You don’t take a megaphone to TfL - you work with them.

All that’s needed now is a more robust stance on Uber. Here’s hoping.
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[UPDATE 1650 hours: Cribble has decided that it will launch on Monday anyway, whatever TfL says. This is part of the latest and characteristically combative statement.

"With over £1.4M already invested in the App its not a time to give up just because a regulator sends a letter. We would have preferred to resolve this difference of opinion in court but time is of the essence ... We are left with no choice but to launch a new version of our app that doesn't need a TFL licensed operator or TFL licensed drivers. This way, the threats from TFL can't impact the livelihoods of these good people". There was more. But we can cut to the chase fairly quickly.

"The new solution will be different from the system rejected by TFL because it will be completely self-regulated by the users ... Drivers will be able to set prices. Passengers will be able to pick their driver based on the type of vehicle, picture of the driver and any other description that the driver cares to add ... like ... dating software [it] falls completely outside the realm of TFL".

Exactly how many drivers from "these good people" will want to join in, is not known. But we all know what the phrase "unlicensed minicabs" means.

It will be most interesting to see who prevails. I suspect it might not be Cribble]


Anonymous said...

A genuine "free market" would have no regulators at all. Anybody could become a taxi driver with any car.

So why not let them all loose on the roads? Why not leave everybody free and responsible for checking the driver and his car before each journey?

Friedman's Free To Choose in action. Every passenger and driver an entrepreneur.

Unknown said...

"Graham Robinson, General Manager for London Taxi and Private Hire. In it, Robinson effectively declared that Cribble was unlawful"

Yeah but Graham Robinson, General Manager for London Taxi and Private Hire is just Graham Robinson, General Manager for London Taxi and Private Hire and he doesn't get to say what is unlawful or otherwise.

Sam Best said...

The cheek of the General Manager for London Taxi and Private Hire to imply he mat know about laws for car hire vehicles on the road.
"Why not leave everybody free and responsible for checking the driver and his car before each journey?". What fun- before each journey hoisting up your Cribble car and checking on the brake pads.

Anonymous said...