6 May 19

Uber Class Action in Australia

Law firm Maurice Blackburn, this morning filed a class-action lawsuit against Uber in the Victorian Supreme Court in what experts are saying could be the largest class action lawsuit in Australian history.

The suit claims that Uber knew that their business was operating illegally and "adopted a policy to operate in any market where the regulator had tacitly approved doing so by failing to take direct enforcement action." The class action comes as Uber prepares to go public in an IPO that would value the company at over US$90 million despite IPO filings saying that the business "may never make a profit”.

UberX not “legalised”

Uber's problems in Australia date back to the first appearance of UberX in Melbourne and Sydney during April of 2014. From launch until dates between 2015 (NSW and WA) and 2017 (Vic) the business was not "legalised" although it is not entirely clear that it was actually operating illegally.

This legal ambiguity will play a large role in the forthcoming case with Maurice Blackburn Senior Associate Elizabeth O'Shea saying that "Uber came in and exploited people by operating outside of regulations, […their] conduct 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."

Taxi licence values affected

The complaint covers not simply loss of revenues, but also a severe decline in the value of taxi licences. In Melbourne and Sydney these licences were valued at close to A$500,000, but recent buy-backs by the Victorian government value them at A$100,000 for the first licence and A$50,000 for subsequent.

It's not the first time that Uber has faced legal problems in Australia with previous cases including an anti-Uber activist making a number of "Citizen's Arrests" in 2014/5 and a major case in 2017 finding that Uber's services were "taxi travel" for the purposes of their tax obligations .

Article authored by Shane Curran