The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr B complains that Transport for London advised him a vehicle he intended to purchase for use as a private hire vehicle would meet its licensing requirements. In reliance on that advice he purchased the vehicle only to discover it did not meet the requirements. He suffered financial loss as a result. The Ombudsman does not uphold Mr B’s complaint.
- Mr B complains that Transport for London (TfL) advised him a vehicle he intended to purchase for use as a private hire vehicle would meet its licensing requirements. In reliance on that advice, he purchased the vehicle only to be informed that it did not meet the requirements after all. Mr B incurred the costs of purchasing the vehicle, insurance, MOT, tax and TfL's inspection fee but was unable to use the vehicle for its intended purpose.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered all the information provided by Mr B, made enquiries of TfL and considered its comments and the documents it provided.
- Mr B and TfL had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.
What I found
Legal and administrative background
- From 1 January 2020 all private hire vehicles (PHVs) licensed for the first time must meet new emission requirements:
- PHVs under 18 months old must be zero emission capable and meet the Euro 6 emissions standard;
- PHVs over 18 months old must have a Euro 6 (petrol or diesel) engine;
- PHVs which are fully electric or have a hydrogen fuel cell will meet the new licensing requirements.
- Mr B is a private hire driver. He says he telephoned TfL in December 2019 to ask whether a car he intended to buy (Toyota Prius) would meet TfL’s licensing requirements. He says he told the call handler he was buying the car from a garage in Middlesex and it had been imported from Japan. He says the call handler confirmed the vehicle would meet the necessary requirements. In reliance on this information, he purchased the vehicle. Neither Mr B nor TfL has been able to provide any evidence of this conversation.
- In January 2020 Mr B telephoned TfL to book the vehicle in for a PHV inspection. TfL’s recording of the conversation shows the call handler asked Mr B whether the vehicle was a Euro 6 standard vehicle. He confirmed it was and that he had evidence of this to take to the inspection. The call handler also asked him whether it was a UK standard vehicle and he said it was. An inspection was arranged for 16 January 2020.
- The vehicle failed the inspection. The reason given on the inspection report was “New or new to licensing vehicle does not comply with the relevant emission standards and/or exceeds age limit”.
- Mr B complained to TfL. It explained that it was working closely with external parties including the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to understand how the Euro emission status of imported vehicles was determined to ensure they met the new standards for PHVs. It said it would only be able to confirm whether Mr B’s vehicle met the standards once its investigation had concluded. It said the vehicle would not pass a licensing inspection until TfL could conclusively confirm it met the appropriate emissions standards.
- Mr B’s MP wrote to TfL on behalf of Mr B and other PHV drivers who had contacted him about TfL rejecting imported Toyota Priuses as not being Euro 6 emissions standard compliant despite the fact that the DVSA handbook IVA model report for the Toyota Prius stated it was Euro 6 compliant.
- TfL responded stating that it had recently identified a concern with vehicles imported from outside the European Union. It was concerned about the emissions standards of these vehicles which are subject to different testing regimes and may not meet the Euro 6 standards that are required for PHV licensing. It explained it had contacted the DVSA for information and was considering its response to establish whether it provided assurance that all or some of the imported vehicles met the licensing requirements.
- I have asked TfL for an update on the situation. It says it has been considering the advice and guidance provided by the DVSA and what additional checks is could introduce for imported vehicles. It has not yet finalised its decision.
- Mr B says he purchased the vehicle in reliance on TfL’s advice that it would meet the licensing requirements and has lost out financially as a result. He has returned the vehicle to the finance company and is now hiring a vehicle for use as a PHV. He says he has lost £3000 being the deposit and the payments he made under the finance agreement before he handed the vehicle back. He also paid for insurance, MOT, tax and TfL’s inspection fee.
- I have seen no evidence of a telephone conversation between Mr B and TfL in December 2019. In the absence of such evidence, I find no fault on the part of TfL. Even if the conversation did take place, there is no evidence to confirm what was said. I do not know what information Mr B gave the call handler or what advice they gave him. Accordingly, I cannot reach a safe conclusion that the call handler misadvised Mr B.
- For the reasons set out above, I do not uphold Mr B’s complaint that he was misadvised by TfL.
- I have completed my investigation on the basis that I am satisfied with TfL’s actions.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman