Jonathan Caplan QC granted leave to appeal in the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong on Friday for Uber drivers to challenge the Road Traffic law which prohibits them driving without a car hire permit.
In Hong Kong Uber has been flourishing for several years. Recently the Department of Justice began prosecuting Uber drivers "for the carriage of passengers for hire or reward" without a Hire Car Permit under the Road Traffic legislation. Several drivers were convicted and applied for leave to appeal to Hong Kong's highest court (the Court of Final Appeal) on the proper interpretation of this offence. Must, for example, the prosecution prove that the defendant was driving for the purpose of fulfilling a direct agreement for carriage between himself and the passenger from which he was to be rewarded? The law in Hong Kong, like most other countries, was drafted long before transport providers like Uber were set up and was directed at stopping private car drivers picking up passengers on the street. Does the law now apply to Uber (and other) drivers where they drive according to an agreement with Uber and have no direct agreement for carriage with the passenger? The full hearing is fixed for September and may well determine Uber's existence in Hong Kong.