Uber sued by Australian taxi drivers over alleged 'illegal operations'

Tyrone Stewart

Uber phone handAn Australian law firm has filed what may be one of the biggest class action lawsuits in the country’s history against Uber on behalf of thousands of drivers and license owners across Australia.

The lawsuit, filed by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers at the Victoria Supreme Court and backed by litigation funders Harbour, has been brought on behalf of more than 6,000 drivers, operators, and license owners from Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia.

The world’s largest ride-hailing firm is accused of “destroying the livelihoods” of the claimants by operating illegally at the expense of the drivers, operators, and license owners.

“Make no mistake, this will be a landmark case regarding the alleged illegal operations of Uber in Australia and the devastating impact that has had on the lives of hard-working and law-abiding citizens here,” said Andrew Watson, national head of class actions at Maurice Blackburn.

“It is not acceptable for a business to place itself above the law and operate illegally to the disadvantage of others. We’ve got a strong case, a strong team and substantial support from thousands of drivers, operators and licence owners nationwide.”

In particular, Maurice Blackburn is accusing Uber of exploiting people by ignoring local regulation and even points to the company’s controversial use of ‘Greyball’, which was a software that allowed Uber to evade government regulators by hiding its normal app from individuals and surfacing ‘ghost’ vehicles to them instead.

As a result, Maurice Blackburn is seeking damages for the claimants over loss of income and loss in license value, and is doing so on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis.

“Uber sells the idea that it does things differently but, in reality, and as we allege, this has meant operating unlawfully, using devious programs like ‘Greyball’. All of this caused extensive loss and damage to law-abiding taxi and hire car drivers, operators and licence holders across the country,” said Elizabeth O’Shea, senior associate at Maurice Blackburn.

“Uber came in and exploited people by operating outside of regulations and it was Uber’s conduct that led to horrible losses being suffered by our group members. For those reasons, we are targeting the multi-billion-dollar company Uber and its associated entities to provide redress to those affected.”