In brief: Uber is facing a class action lawsuit in Australia filed on behalf of thousands of taxi drivers and car-hire operators who say it operated illegally in the country.
More than 6,000 people have joined the suit, which was filed by law firm Maurice Blackburn. It alleges that Uber operated illegally in Australia because its drivers weren’t properly licensed or accredited, giving the ride-hailing app an unfair advantage over competitors who complied with the law.
"Uber came in and exploited people by operating outside of regulations," said Maurice Blackburn senior associate, Elizabeth O'Shea, in a statement.
"Uber's 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."
The suit claims Uber knew what it was doing in Australia was illegal, and that it had adopted a program to avoid enforcement activities. According to a summary of the suit, “Uber Inc adopted a policy to operate in any market where the regulator had tacitly approved doing so by failing to take direct enforcement action, effectively in complete disregard for any regulations which existed.”
Back in 2015, Australia became the latest in a line of countries to see mass protests from taxi drivers demanding Uber face the same regulations they do or be banned.
Nick Andrianakis, a taxi driver and the lead plaintiff, said: "My family has always been into taxis, my father drove taxis … my son drove taxis while he was at uni. But when Uber came to our shores illegally, like pirates, they broke every law, every regulation." He added that Uber’s entry into Australia forced him out of business.
Maurice Blackburn said it filed the case in the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday. The firm never said how much it was seeking in damages, but CNN reports that it could be in the hundreds of millions.
While Uber is aware of reports of the case, a spokesperson said the company had not received any notification of a class action.
"Uber denies this allegation and, if a claim is served making it, the claim will be vigorously defended," the spokesperson added.