I am asked by Itineris Limited (“Itineris”) to advise with regard to the legality of the operation of its proposed Jersey Lifts app, (the “Platform”). In particular, I am asked to consider whether by operating the Platform, Itineris is contravening any legislation in Jersey with regard to the licensing of taxi or cab services. The simple answer to that question is, no, as the Platform is not nor can it be construed as the operation of a cab service but I will develop my opinion below.
The regulation of taxi services in Jersey is governed by Motor Traffic (Taxi- Cabs – General) (Jersey) Order 2002 (the “Order”). The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency of the States of Jersey (the “DVS”) is responsible for licencing and enforcing the legal requirements relating to the taxi-cab industry. Drivers of taxi-cabs, be they private hire cabs, rank taxi-cabs or limousine taxi-cabs, must hold a Public Service Vehicle license (a “PSV”) and comply with the Order in terms.
However, a “cab service” is defined at Article 1(1) of the Motor Traffic (Jersey) Law 1935 (the “1935 Law”) as meaning “a service that consists of the carriage by motor vehicles of passengers for hire or reward under a contract expressed or implied for the use of the vehicle as a whole at a fixed rate or for an agreed sum” [my emphasis].
Further, by Article 1(2) of the 1935 Law, where “a motor vehicle designed to carry 8 people or less is not being used in the course of a business of carrying passengers but contributions are received by the carrier for the journey concerned, the vehicle shall not be taken for the purposes of this Law as being used to carry passengers for hire or reward if the total of the contributions received does not involve an element of profit”.
It must follow that if a vehicle carries passengers who contribute towards the cost of travel but that contribution contains no element of profit then the vehicle is not being operated “for hire or reward”; the driver is not operating a cab service and, therefore, is not required to comply with the provisions of the 1935 Law.
Pausing for a moment, whilst Glint are developers and entrepreneurs who have embraced modern technology in producing the Platform, the legal framework in which they are operating has been around since before the Occupation. The 1935 Law has always permitted not-for-profit ridesharing, although that term is perhaps a recent arrival. Ironically, the most strident critics of ridesharing in Jersey seem to be the taxi operators who have been making their livings in accordance with that same 1935 Law for a very long time.
In broad terms a private vehicle operated in Jersey is subject to requirements as to roadworthiness and the drivers of such vehicles must be licensed and insured. As long as a private vehicle is roadworthy and driven legally by a person entitled and insured to drive, the driver is not committing any offence. If that driver agrees to give another person or persons a lift in his or her vehicle, likewise, he or she commits no offence.
Conversely, if a person were to seek to drive his private vehicle in order to make a profit that would bring the risk that he or she was considered to be operating an unlicensed cab service. That would have consequences for the driver’s licence as, presumably he would not be the holder of a PSV, and he or she might invalidate his or her insurance if it did not permit for the carrying of passengers for hire or reward. This would give rise to the possibility that the driver was driving whilst not holding a valid licence or insurance, the criminal sanctions for which are serious.
I understand that the Platform will operate in order to connect people who wish to share a lift. This, it is said, will allow for travel in a more sustainable and convenient way by ridesharing. It will bring with it the added benefit that the Platform will record the names of users and in the case of drivers, their car registration numbers. Users will be able to rate other users once a rideshare has ended so that other users may be informed as to whether they would like to rideshare with a particular user. GPS tracking embedded in the Platform will enable users’ journeys in terms of route and speed to also be stored. This will increase the safety of both passengers and drivers who may not be known to one another.
In my opinion, legitimate not-for-profit ridesharing is not illegal. Ridesharing is the simple act of two or more people agreeing to travel in a car together, with or without the passenger making a contribution to the cost of travel. This it is said will allow for a person who is travelling from A to B to connect with a person who wishes to travel from A to B. An example would be a person agreeing to take a neighbour to work or picking up a person at a bus stop and taking them to their destination. In neither example could the driver possibly be accused of operating a cab service. Taking the neighbour example, if the driver were to have telephoned his neighbour to ask if he wanted a lift tomorrow, it would be absurd to suggest that the telephone company (by listing the passenger’s number in the telephone book and providing the telephone service) would have some liability for what happened in the car the next day. Likewise, if a person were to advise a driver that a third person wanted a lift into town, the first person could not be fixed with any liability arising for what transpired in connection with the subsequent journey.
I am instructed that Glint will not charge any user (passenger or driver) for the use of the Platform. There is no question of Glint employing or having any contractual relationship with users who drive other users. Glint is therefore in the position of the first person in the above example. For purely altruistic reasons, it is bringing parties together. By downloading and using the Platform the user will agree, pursuant to Terms and Conditions of Use, that he or she accepts all responsibility for travel once a rideshare has been organised. The Platform will have no involvement in what users may agree amounts to a fair contribution towards the cost of any particular rideshare.
In my opinion, the Platform to be operated by Glint will promote legitimate, not-for-profit ridesharing. It is obvious that there are many benefits that will accrue from an increase in ridesharing in Jersey but the purpose of this Note is not to extol the virtues of this means of travel. Rather, it is to advise as to whether the Platform could be said to contravene the law. It is my view that it does not but should Glint have any comments or queries with regard to this Advice then they are invited to contact me.
Advocate Mike Preston
Updated 4 August 2017
Produced 21 July 2017