Uber to pay $271 million in Australia taxi class action settlement

Uber app.
Uber app. Photo credit: Getty

Uber has agreed to pay AUD$271.8 million (NZD$292.9 million) to settle a lawsuit brought by Australian taxi operators and drivers, who say they lost income when the ride-hailing company moved into the country, a law firm said on Monday.

The settlement is Australia's fifth-largest, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers said in a statement.

The class action suit was filed in 2019 in the Supreme Court of Victoria state on behalf more than 8000 taxi and hire car owners and drivers, accusing Uber of breaking laws requiring taxis and hire cars to be licenced.

Uber's 2012 arrival in the market took revenue from licenced taxi drivers while destroying the value of the licences they had paid for, according to the lawsuit.

Uber had said it never knowingly broke the law.

"Uber fought tooth and nail at every point along the way," Maurice Blackburn Principal Michael Donelly said in a statement.

"After years of refusing to do the right thing by those we say they harmed, Uber has blinked," he said.

An Uber spokesperson said in an email that the company had contributed to state-level taxi compensation schemes since 2018 "and with today's proposed settlement, we put these legacy issues firmly in our past".

Uber did not disclose the proposed settlement in its response.

Former lawmaker and taxi driver Rod Barton, a member of the class action, said the settlement vindicated his belief that Uber had knowingly avoided the country's taxi licencing rules.

"They knew full well they were required to have their drivers and their vehicles fully licenced," Barton told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

"They chose not to do that, and they did a lot of things that gave them a commercial advantage against the taxi industry, which established their foothold," he added.

The law was changed in 2015 which allowed Uber to operate without taxi licences while state governments set up compensation schemes for taxi drivers and licence owners.