Victorian taxi drivers and hire car drivers are set to sue ride-sharing giant Uber for “hundreds of millions” in lost earnings.
Law firm Maurice Blackburn will lodge a class action on behalf of almost 1000 people who held a licence while Uber was allegedly conspiring to “act unlawfully” between 2014 and 2017.
Senior associate Elizabeth O’Shea told AAP they will lodge the class action in the Supreme Court in coming weeks.
“We expect it (the class action) to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars,” she said of the damages.
“We are very close to finalising the timing but there is a bit of paperwork yet to be done,” she said.
Maurice Blackburn successfully ran the record-breaking 2009 Black Saturday bushfires class actions, securing $494 million in the Kilmore East settlement and $300 million in the Murrindindi-Marysville settlement.
Drivers claim their livelihoods were impacted, losing income and the value of their licence, as a result of Uber operating allegedly without legal approval in Victoria.
Ms O’Shea said the lawsuit would be bankrolled externally, with $20 million already offered so drivers don’t have to use their own cash.
“We do not want the drivers to dip into their own pockets,” she said.
President of the Commercial Passenger Vehicle Association Rod Barton told Fairfax Media allowing Uber to operate gave them a “huge commercial advantage”.
“Allowing Uber to operate like that has given them a huge commercial advantage and allowed them to build a client base at the expense of other operators working within the law.
“Not only did it destroy us in terms of our assets, it destroyed the market … the income is not there anymore.
“There is a requirement to have commercial passenger licences, a taxi licence or a Victorian hire car licence; they [Uber] operated for years without those,” Mr Barton told Fairfax Media.
Mr Barton is leader of the Transport Matters Party, established in January this year to run in the forthcoming state election on November 24.
The full list of claimants is yet to be finalised and registration to join the action over Uber’s conduct between April 1, 2014 and July 31, 2017, remains open.
The firm began investigating the “complex and difficult” case last year before only “relatively recently” deciding to take it on, she said.
An Uber spokeswoman told Fairfax Media the company had not been notified of any class action.
“We continue to focus on providing a good experience for drivers in Victoria using the Uber app as a flexible earning opportunity,” she said.