Uber has dismissed as “completely unfounded” reports that a group of London taxi drivers are planning a class action lawsuit against the ride hailing giant, claiming that Uber’s practices resulted in a loss of earnings.
In a press release, litigation specialist RGL Management and law firm Mishcon de Reya, said it was working with a group of drivers in order “to commence proceedings by no later than Q1 2022”.
The release states: “The basis of the claim is that Uber operated unlawfully by breaching the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 from June 2012 until March 2018. Uber permitted drivers to accept bookings directly when they were not licensed to do so.”
“Uber’s failure to adhere to the relevant statutory framework caused loss of earnings to licensed black cab drivers, who continued to operate lawfully and were subject to strict legislative and regulatory rules and requirements throughout.”
RGL Management believes up to 30,000 drivers are so eligible and that for a full-time driver operating throughout this period, a claim against Uber could be worth in the region of £25,000 or more.
In response, an Uber spokeswoman said: “Uber operates lawfully in London and these allegations are completely unfounded. We are proud to serve this great global city and the 45,000 drivers in London who rely on the app for earnings opportunities and are committed to helping people move safely.”
No claim has actually been issued, and Mishcon de Reya has threatened the claim since 2018, when it was reported that the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association was seeking advice from the law firm about a class action suit.
Now RGL Management is funding a marketing campaign titled Black Cabs vs Uber 2021 (BULit21). Drivers can sign up for the campaign free of charge, and RGL claims around 4,000 have signed up so far, with a further 5,200 registrations to be processed.
RGL Management CEO James Hayward said: “We’re working to bringing an action against Uber that will be by cabbies for cabbies. As well as building the book of claimant cab drivers, the structure to be put in place will be such that there is no cost until success is achieved and no risk.
“Uber knowingly and unlawfully allowed its drivers to accept bookings direct via the app when they were not licensed to do so. It is very clear.”
Any case is likely to hinge on whether or not a court considers a customer booking an Uber cab via an app constitutes “hailing” directly or pre-booking. Lawyers are not convinced any action would succeed.
In 2018, when the case was first mooted, the Financial Times quoted Adrian Magnus, partner at law firm Dentons, as saying: “Generally, the law is in favour of competition. There are significant laws to protect competition on price, innovation, service and quality. Hence, bricks-and-mortar retailers cannot sue Amazon just because it offers lower prices and faster delivery.”