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Is it lawful to charge someone more than postage and storage fees for example, in order to reunite them with their lawful property? Is it even legal to charge them storage fees? If so then what is the legal basis for this?

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    If I find an item that I think might be lost, I can legally just ignore it and you don't get it back. Now as a private person, I'm equally likely to benefit from a lost item being returned to me at no cost and me having to return a lost item with no benefit, so the cost averages out and I can't complain. Taxi drivers find 100 times more items than they lose. Would you rather have a system where you pay a small amount and get your items back, vs. a system where your lost items get thrown away at no cost to you?
    – gnasher729
    Oct 31, 2022 at 11:32
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    Or a taxi driver took you from a pub to your home, and later finds your last wallet with credit and debit cards, driving license, cash etc. If he drives back to your home to return the wallet, wouldn't you think he should be paid for that journey, same as if you were a passenger?
    – gnasher729
    Oct 31, 2022 at 11:35
  • Yes of course the provision of these incentives is all very sensible, I was just wondering how it is computed legally with the more fundamental Frameworks of lost property, extortion, etc.
    – JosephII
    Oct 31, 2022 at 12:54

2 Answers 2

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Yes - they can charge a reasonable amount to cover collection, cataloguing, safekeeping and restoration of property. Crucially they aren't specific to just the costs related to an individual item, but rather the estimated income is weighed against the estimated costs of all lost property handling in that year.

The legal basis for this comes from the London Transport Act 1982, subsequently amended various times (e.g. by The Transport for London (Consequential Provisions) Order 2003) but the original gives the gist in Part V, Section 19 :

The Executive shall have power to fix the charges to be paid to them from time to time for the safe keeping and redelivery of lost property and the charges shall be of such amounts or at such rates as the Executive shall think fit:

Provided that -

(a) the total of the charges fixed under this subsection and estimated to be received in any year shall not exceed by an unreasonable proportion the cost to the Executive in that year of making provision for the safe keeping and redelivery of lost property ;

Since you specifically mentioned the driver award this is further explained in TfL's Lost Property Fees documentation:

Cab-driver award

Items found in licensed cabs are subject to an additional award, which is given in full to the driver. This award takes into account the value of the item and the time taken and loss of fare in delivering the item to a police station or the Lost Property Office.

Which is fairly sensible, cab drivers are only earning when their carrying fares. By taking steps to mean that they aren't out-of-pocket for turning in the lost items TfL is aiming to increase the number that get handed in rather than simply discarded, or in the case of valuable items simply kept. Which is in keeping with the goals of "safe keeping and redelivery" described in the Act.

The legal basis for this award is in the London Cab Order 1934, Part VIII:

(2) If any property found in a cab and deposited at a police station by the cab-driver be claimed within three months from the last day of the month in which the property is received at the Metropolitan Police Lost Property Office, and the claimant proves to the satisfaction of the Commissioner of Police that he is entitled thereto, the property shall be delivered to him on payment to the Commissioner of Police of

(a) a fee in respect of the cost of collecting, keeping in safe custody, and restoring lost property ;

b) an award to the cab-driver by whom the property was deposited; and

(c) such additional sum (if any) as may be payable as hereinafter provided.

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  • The cab driver awards are provided for in Part VIII.—Regulations as to Property Accidentally Left in Cabs, London Cab Order 1934 (which the TfL Lost Property Fees pdf cites in its first sentence along with the London Transport Act 1982).
    – Lag
    Oct 31, 2022 at 10:18
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    @Lag good call, I've added in some additional info referencing that. Oct 31, 2022 at 10:28
  • Bus drivers and train drivers are paid their salary for the time they spend handling lost items. Taxi drivers are not. So it is reasonable to pay them for their efforts. (And all three groups will find lost items far, far more often than most people).
    – gnasher729
    Oct 31, 2022 at 11:28
  • if I remember correctly, London bus crews (drivers or conductors in the old days) had the right to purchase items that they had personally found and handed in, if they were not claimed within some time period (a few months). The purchase price was fixed, something like ten shillings (£0.50). I read about this in a news story about a conductor who found and handed in a suitcase full of banknotes (over £3,000 I think) and was allowed to buy it at the fixed rate after it had not been claimed in the time allowed. Oct 31, 2022 at 11:51
  • @MichaelHarvey oh wow, that is incredible.
    – JosephII
    Oct 31, 2022 at 12:53
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The Town Police Clauses Act 1847 (since supplemented by Local Government Acts), which is still the basis of taxi law, states

68 Commissioners may make Bye Laws for regulating hackney carriages.
. . .
For securing the safe custody and re-delivery of any property accidentally left in hackney carriages, and fixing the charges to be made in respect thereof.

The reason for it is an incentive to return the lost property, rather than discarding it.

When I left my phone in a taxi (not in London), and the cabbie returned it to my house, he asked for a fee of £10. When I asked why, he said

You are the one who was so careless as to drop your phone, and I am the one who is losing business as a result of it.

So I thanked him and paid.

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