Taxi and hire car drivers are gearing up for a courtroom battle against ride-share giant Uber over lost earnings.
Lawyers acting for the Commercial Passenger Vehicles Association of Australia will lodge a class action in the Victorian Supreme Court over the coming weeks on behalf of drivers who lost business when Uber operated without legal approval in the state.
“We expect it to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars,” Maurice Blackburn senior associate Elizabeth O’Shea said.
About 1000 people who held a licence while Uber was “operating unlawfully” and lost income or licence value have joined the action, she said.
“We are very close to finalising the timing but there is a bit of paperwork yet to be done.”
The lawsuit will be bankrolled externally with $20 million already on the table.
Association president Rod Barton told AAP the legal stoush wasn’t anti-Uber or anti-competition, rather about how the company undercut legal drivers.
“They are filthy, absolutely filthy at what has happened,” he said.
“The government has absolutely failed us, we had to make a strategy and the advice was consistent to go after Uber because the government would drag it out.
“We believe Uber will fight us the whole way.”
The battle is expected to take a couple of years, Mr Barton said.
Uber’s Victorian state manager Lucas Groeneveld said the company had not been notified of a class action and would continue to focus on delivering a great service.
“Thousands of Victorians have embraced Uber as a reliable choice to get from A to B and the government has recognised ride-sharing as part of the transport mix across the state,” he said.
Victorian Taxi and Hire Car Families spokeswoman Sandy Spanos said many group members have registered for the action after Uber cost them potential earnings.
“If the government cannot protect its citizens, the people will rise up and take action,” she said.
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.
Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan noted the government has introduced legislation governing ride-sharing.
“Our reforms are delivering better choice and cheaper fares for Victorians,” she said.