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In 2017 Good Law Project initiated proceedings to establish that Uber is supplying taxi services – a conclusion that would have as its consequence that Uber owes, and HMRC is failing to collect for the benefit of all of us, £1bn in tax and interest. Uber does not contest these figures.
To bring those proceedings we needed a so-called protective costs order (“PCO”), capping our exposure to Uber’s costs. We believe, and Uber does not contend otherwise, than that those costs could amount to £1m at first instance – and then there are potentially three further tiers of appeal. These sums substantially exceed the very modest resources of Good Law Project.
Judgment was handed down earlier this morning in our application for a PCO. We regret to say that the Judge decided the application against us. You can read the judgment here.
The Judge found that a PCO could not be obtained in “private law proceedings”. He also held that the fact that the black cab trade had contributed to the crowdfunding weighed heavily against the granting of a PCO.
We have grave concerns about the implications of the decision. It is an invitation to private corporations to use the threat of costs liability to dodge legal accountability. It makes it difficult or impossible to hold them to account. It damages the rule of law. And these consequences, we believe, will further undermine popular consent to capitalism.
Without a protective costs application the litigation cannot continue. However, this is not the end of the line – in its short life Good Law Project has already successfully overturned three decisions against it, including two on appeal.
We are seeking permission to appeal in this case and are seeking financial support for permission to appeal from other public interest actors. We are also urgently exploring an alternative route by which we might ensure HMRC does its job and Uber pays the £1bn in tax and interest we believe it owes.
Meanwhile, Good Law Project’s (and its Director, Jo Maugham QC’s) success in crowdfunded litigation is a matter of public record and can be seen here.
You can read our application for permission to appeal here. And Uber’s response here.