Reports of an “impending” class action against rideshare app Uber have surfaced, with claims the multinational could be forced to cough up “hundreds of millions” of dollars if found guilty of breaching trading rules.
According to Fairfax Media, law firm Maurice Blackburn is preparing to launch a class action on behalf of more than 1,000 taxi drivers in Victoria, who allege the company operated illegally in the state over a three-year period.
In doing so, the legal action is hoping to deliver a ruling that Uber was unlicensed when it launched around 2013-2014 until it was given official accreditation by the state government in 2017 – making it liable to compensate taxi and hire car drivers who have suffered lost revenue as a result of the increased competition.
The class action first attracted headlines late last year. In response to media speculation at the time, the Victorian Taxi Association issued a statement in December 2017, in which it said it had instructed Maurice Blackburn to investigate allegations that Uber had been operating without a licence, and therefore trading illegally, in Victoria.
“Maurice Blackburn will argue that Uber was subject to the same regulations that taxi drivers and hire car drivers were. If their investigation reveals that Uber’s entry to the market involved unlawful conduct, there may be grounds for a class action to recover losses on the part of those affected,” the association had said.
“It is the first proposed case of its type in Australia, with Canada the only other jurisdiction to pursue similar action.”
It actively encouraged taxi drivers and hire car companies that had lost business to Uber to participate in the class action.
A Maurice Blackburn spokesperson confirmed to My Business the validity of the reports, and said “[we] are finalising refinements to the pleadings and expect to file in the Victorian Supreme Court shortly”.
Uber responded by stating that is has yet to receive any notice.
In a brief statement in response to My Business' questions, Uber's Victorian state manager, Luca Groeneveld, said:
“Thousands of Victorians have embraced Uber as a reliable choice to get from A to B and the Government has recognised ridesharing as part of the transport mix across the state.”
He added: “We continue to focus our efforts on delivering a great service to Victorian riders and drivers.”
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.