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Competition Law

Analysis - debate - current awareness

Field Fisher Waterhouse , 23 JAN 2015

Not just any cab...

John Cassels

Partner

Not just any cab...
In London, the licensed black taxi cabs are permitted to drive in bus lanes whilst minicabs are not, except to pick up or set down pre-booked passengers.

One of the biggest private cab firms in London, Addison Lee, last year challenged the bus lane rules. The case is currently before the UK's Court of Appeal which referred to the EU's highest court the question of whether or not the rules which allow black taxi cabs but not private hire vehicles (i.e. minicabs) to drive in bus lanes, amounts to state aid. State aid involves a benefit being conferred on a company via state resources resulting in a distortion of competition, and is unlawful under EU law. Addison Lee's position is that using the bus lane is a benefit conferred via state resources which unlawfully distorts competition in favour of the black taxi cabs.

The EU court has now declared that permitting black cabs to use bus lanes, while prohibiting minicabs from doing so, does not give rise to state aid.

In particular, a state does not confer economic advantage by granting a right of access to public infrastructure which is not operated commercially to some users of that infrastructure, in order to pursue an objective laid down by state legislation (for example, ensuring a safe and efficient transport system).

In addition, black cabs are in a factual and legal position that is distinct from minicabs, which means that their situations are not comparable. It is only black cabs that are permitted to ply for hire, they are subject to rules which mean that they must stop and pick up passengers if they are available, drivers must set fares by reference to the taxi meter and must have "The Knowledge".

If you would like to discuss these issues please do not hesitate to contact John Cassels at john.cassels@fieldfisher.com
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