Street Vendors and the Law
Street vendors are an integral part of the world's urban economies, contributing to vibrant retail markets and providing an array of affordable, accessible goods and services to urban consumers.Street vending also provides a livelihood for those who have few employment options, including migrants and internally displaced people.
For more on the size and significance of the street vending population, their contributions and challenges, see Occupational Groups: Street Vendors.
Legal and Regulatory Frameworks
In many cities, the legal and regulatory environments governing street vending impede, rather than enable, the development of a healthy informal sector in which street vendors can meet the demand for their products.
Street vendors may work from a fixed location (such as a kiosk or sidewalk table) or they may be mobile. Some combine fixed and mobile vending. Each type of work involves different regulatory challenges. Local permitting laws may restrict market entry. Zoning ordinances often restrict street vendors to areas that are inconvenient to both vendors and their customers.
Street vendors protesting evictions from the markets of Warwick Junction
The regulatory regimes governing where, when, and how vendors may work are often inconsistent, contradictory within a single area, or inconsistently enforced. Street vendors in many cities are forced to pay bribes or excessive fines/fees in order to work.
In urban planning decisions, the needs of street vendors and their customers are often dismissed as irrelevant to a modern city's growth. Street vendors are often evicted by force when their traditional vending sites overlap with sites for proposed development. And, like members of many sectors of the informal economy, street vendors are often left out of social protection schemes.
Resources on this site will help street vendors, their organizations, lawyers, researchers, advocates and policymakers understand the legal challenges around street vending. Some models for addressing those challenges can be found here, too.
HIGHLIGHT: India's National Policy & Law on Street Vending
Following a decades-long campaign by street vendors' associations, including the National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI) and the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA), India's Parliament passed the National Policy on Street Vendors (revised 2009) in early 2014. (The country's Supreme Court, having recognized the importance of street vending to India's urban economies and the unique vulnerabilities of street vendors, had ordered the government to enact a law for the protection of street vendors no later than 2011.) India is the first country to create adopt progressive, centralized legislation relating to street vending.
The Bill has several provisions to protect livelihood, social security and human rights. However, it is not perfect─for example, its participatory provisions for street vendors in local decision-making bodies are weaker than in the National Policy, and it delegates many of the lawmaking duties to state or municipal governments. Nonetheless, it represents an important step in recognizing street vendors as important members of the urban economy, and in guaranteeing them consideration and representation in urban planning processes.
Laws on Street Vending
- Argentina: Ley No. 1166 de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires (concerning trading on public roads)
- Brazil: Lei No. 6586 (classifying street vendors for the purpose of labour and social security law)
- Canada: City of Vancouver Guide to Street and Sidewalk Use for Business Activities
- Colombia: Bogotá Res DG-08807 (concerning the street vendors' association)
- Hong Kong: Dept. of Food & Environmental Hygiene, Hawker Control Policy
- India: Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2012
- India: Special Provisions Act of Delhi, 2009
- India: Overview of Law, Regulations, and Rights of Street Vendors in Ahmedabad
- New Zealand: Waipa District Public Bylaws
- Philippines: City of Taguig Ord. No. 45 of 2007 (Registration of Hawkers)
- Philippines: Trinidad, Bohol Market Code (2007)
- UK: Bristol Street Trading Policy
- UK: Stratford-on-Avon Street Trading and Collections Policy
- UK: Street Trading Act of 2001 for Northern Ireland
- UK: Wyre Forest Street Trading Legislation
- United States: New York City General Vendor License Page
Court Cases and Judgments on Street Vendors' Rights
- Colombia: Constitutional Court Decision SU-360 of 1999 on Rights of Sellers in the Street
- Ghana: Case Law on Street Trading in Accra
- India: Gainda Ram & Ors v Municipal Corp. of Delhi (2009)
- India: Sudhir Madan & Ors v Municipal Corp. of Delhi (2007)
- India: Dharam Singh & Ors v Municipal Corp. of Delhi (2005)
- India: Maharastra Hawkers & Ors v Municipal Corp. of Mumbai (2002)
- South Africa: Constitutional Court Decision on Johannesburg "Clean Sweep" Initiative (allowing traders to return to work)
Law Project Reports on Street Vendors
- Report from 2011 Consultation with Street Vendors, Ghana
- Report on Street Vending in Ghana, 2012
- Street Vendors in India
- Report on Peru, 2013 (multi-sector, including street vendors)
- Multiple Laws and Policies from Peru
News on Street Vending and the Law
- "Vendor Sues Atlanta for Lost Business" (Daily Report [United States], 27 Jan. 2014)
- "Angola: Selling Out Angola's Street Vendors" (AllAfrica, 16 Jan. 2014)
- "Ftown Street Vendors Clash with Council" (The Voice [Botswana], 10 Jan. 2014)
- "Long Road to Legalization for L.A. Street Vendors" (Neon Tommy [United States], 16 Dec. 2013)
- "Puerto Rico Bill Would Ban Street Vendors, Beggars" (The New Zealand Times, 7 Dec. 2013)
- "Food Carts in Los Angeles Come Out of the Shadows" (New York Times, 4 Dec. 2013)
- "Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation: Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2012 passed by Lok Sabha" (India Public Sector News, 10 Sept. 2013)