Jolyon Maugham QC’s Uber legal challenge faces setback as High Court rules he can’t shield himself from taxi app’s £1 million legal bill

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Bump in the road?

📷 Jolyon Maugham QC

A tax law barrister who crowdfunded over £100,000 to help him bring a £1.06p value added tax (VAT) claim against Uber has been told by the High Court he can’t stop the taxi-hailing app coming after him for its legal costs.

In a judgment handed down yesterday, the High Court rejected Jolyon Maugham QC’s attempt to limit his costs liability to just £20,000 through what is known as a protective costs order (PCO). It is understood that Uber’s costs could amount to an eyewatering £1 million at first instance, with the final bill only set to skyrocket if either party chooses to appeal the decision in the main case.

In rejecting the PCO, Mr Justice Trower noted that over 50% of the Devereux Chambers barrister’s six-figure war chest had come from “the black cab trade” (known for not loving Uber), including one individual payment of £20,000 from an “organisation connected with the black cab trade.” Moreover, court papers also reveal Maugham has an annual net personal income of around £400,000 and owns two properties.

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Reacting to the ruling, the Good Law Project, a not for profit organisation launched by Maugham and which initiated proceedings against Uber, said it had “grave concerns” about the implications of the decision. It continued:

“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.”

Maugham launched legal action against Uber in 2017 over claims the app is undercharging VAT, arguing that it should have provided him with a VAT receipt for a short £6.34 taxi ride he took between his chambers and a client’s office. However, Uber maintains that it is not liable for VAT because it merely connects drivers with customers, and does not provide a transport service.

Warning that without a protective costs application the litigation against Uber “cannot continue”, the statement added:

“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.”

The case continues.

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While I understand his passion for this, he chose to issue proceedings and exposed himself to the risk of an adverse costs bill. I am not a huge fan of Uber but they were forced to incur defence costs due to this and they were ultimately successful in defending the claim. A departure from the normal rules seems unfair.

In any event it seems completely disproportionate so detailed assessment should get the bill down to a more sensible level.



Is it just me or does he look like Uncle Quentin from the Famous Five?



Maugham constantly paints himself as the face of the working class

….but wait…

‘court papers also reveal Maugham has an annual net personal income of around £400,000 and owns two properties.’….



Believe me, for a tax silk that is a very modest annual income. Very modest.



400k net?! Thought it was good. Shows what little I know.



It’s supposed to be 2 million before tax



Ah, I see. So you don’t believe working class people are allowed to climb the ladder while reminding people they come from a working class background? Or is it just working class people infiltrating a middle class profession you can’t stand?

Not that this chap ever paints himself as working class. I believe he’s only ever pointed out he grew up in a single parent household where his father had nothing to do with him.



His name is “Jolyon” FFS.

I’m working class and I know literally zero Jolyons.

I don’t think I’d even heard the name before this silk became famous.



Aww!!! The song got deleted!!!!



You have to be so quick to catch the top bantz here these days…..


Oh I see, so working class people are only allowed to be named from a designated list now are they? Only Jim, John, Tom etc?



Ah, usual business resumes. Corporations allowed to take the piss re costs.

Oh how they need all those junior counsel and bored solicitors sitting in the back, scribbling notes.



He was so cocksure about everything now gets banged up



He isn’t getting “banged up” though is he, mate.



This sentence made me laugh: [the decision not to award a PCO is] ‘an invitation to private corporations to use the threat of costs liability to dodge legal accountability.’

If you bring a case against someone, you may have to pay their costs if you lose. You have, to use a common turn of phrase, ‘legal accountability’ towards them as you have forced them to incur costs they would have otherwise not had to incur.

It seems to me that JM’s desire for a PCO smacks of clear hypocrisy and the self-regarding peacock cannot realise it.



No. There is a difference between paying a party’s costs and a party running up a huge costs bill to intimidate the other side.



That’s why detailed assessment exists.



And PCOs. Better option in cases like this.



Why wouldn’t it work? Provides some certainty to him.

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