Taxi drivers win as Uber settles class action

Ridesharing giant Uber has agreed to pay over $270 million to settle a class action lawsuit launched by more than 8000 taxi and hire car drivers in Australia, triggered by the firm’s arrival on local shores more than a decade ago.

ABC News reports the $271.8 million settlement was reached following a five-year class action led by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, which has agreed to drop its case. It was expected to go to trial in the Supreme Court of Victoria on Monday.

According to the law firm, it is the fifth-largest class action settlement in Australian history.

The class action was sparked by Australian taxi and hire car drivers, operators and licence holders who claimed to have lost income and value on their licences following Uber’s arrival in Australia in 2012.

The lawsuit was filed in 2019, with the circa-8000 taxi and hire car owners alleging Uber illegally operated in Australia, providing an advantage over the traditional industry which was subject to stringent regulations.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers principal Michael Donelly told ABC News the law firm would receive between $30 million and $35 million in legal fees, with the remaining funds from the settlement being divided between those who were involved in the class action.

However, the almost $240 million leftover won’t be distributed evenly between each of the taxi and hire car owners affected, as some were impacted more than others when Uber came to Australia.

The lawsuit also included allegations Uber had misled regulators and “used an electronic ‘kill switch’ that cut access to Uber servers to thwart law enforcement during raids”, according to ABC News.

In a media statement posted online, Uber defended itself, saying there were no ridesharing regulations anywhere when it launched locally.

“When Uber started more than a decade ago, ridesharing regulations did not exist anywhere in the world, let alone Australia,” the company’s statement read. 

“Today is different, and Uber is now regulated in every state and territory across Australia, and governments recognise us as an important part of the nation’s transport mix.  

“The rise of ridesharing has grown Australia’s overall point-to-point transport industry, bringing with it greater choice and improved experiences for consumers, as well as new earnings opportunities for hundreds of thousands of Australian workers.

“Since 2018, Uber has made significant contributions into various state-level taxi compensation schemes, and with today’s proposed settlement, we put these legacy issues firmly in our past.”

When Uber surpassed 10 years in Australia in 2022, it claimed its ‘driver partners’ had amassed 700 million rides – not including 450 million UberEats deliveries.

Uber plans to become a zero-emissions company by 2040, which will include requiring all vehicles in Australia to be electric or hydrogen-powered before the end of next decade.

SOURCE

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