Taxi Council of Queensland urges members to take their time on class action

Media release
28 November 2018 

The Taxi Council of Queensland (TCQ) has cautiously welcomed law firm Maurice Blackburn’s decision  to  extend  its  proposed  class  action  against  Uber  to  include  Queensland  taxi  and limousine industry stakeholders, announced today (Wednesday 26 November).

Originally only proposing to file a statement of claim against Uber on behalf of industry members in Victoria, Maurice Blackburn is now proposing to extend its class action to include Queensland, New South Wales, and Western Australia. The legal firm intends to argue that Uber engaged in a conspiracy that caused harm to taxi licence owners and operators by unlawful means, and is seeking to recover damages and loss of earnings which it estimates could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Today’s announcement by Maurice Blackburn means that Sunshine State taxi industry members may now join the mooted class action.

While acknowledging  that  Uber should be held to account for the damage that  it has done to Queensland taxi licence owners, operators and drivers, TCQ has stopped short of advising its members to join the class action at this stage.

TCQ CEO, Blair Davies, urged members to exercise caution and take their time to fully consider all elements of the class action before deciding whether to join it or not.

“The Maurice Blackburn class action has been promoted as an initiative for our industry.  On that basis, TCQ has been keen to assist the law firm prepare its case and we have provided lots of information about the unlawfulness of Uber’s ride-sourcing services in Queensland between April 2014 and September 2016, and the damage and hardship those operations caused to ordinary mum and dad Queenslanders running taxi businesses.”

“However, while TCQ has been assisting Maurice Blackburn for more than 10 months it remains unclear  to us  as  to who,  if  anybody,  in  the industry  is giving  them  instructions  regarding  the conduct of the class action.  This is important for our members in Queensland because their case appears to be materially stronger than their counterparts in other States, especially Victoria.   It would be a disaster for Queensland taxi and limousine licence owners and operators if they lost their ability to sue Uber as a result of joining a class action that floundered or was distracted by prioritisation of factually different circumstances in another State.”

This class action case being brought by Maurice Blackburn has the support of UK-based litigation funder, Harbour Litigation.  The involvement of a well-resourced and experienced litigation funder means that members of the class action will not need to meet any legal costs out of their own pockets, including any award of costs if the class action is unsuccessful.  However, it also means that  any settlement will see a very sizeable amount  going to Maurice Blackburn and Harbour Litigation.

“TCQ is aware that class actions in Australia have not always delivered outcomes in line with their beneficiaries’  expectations.   We understand that  Maurice Blackburn has  a better history than some of  its  counterparts  in that  regard,  however  we would welcome more assurances  being provided  to  taxi  licence  owners  and  operators  about  what  minimum  share  of  a  successful settlement will ultimately remain to be distributed to them.”

Taxi and limousine licence owners, operators and drivers in Queensland will have six months to register to join the class action. The class action is expected to run for two to three years before it gets to a settlement one way or the other.

“Today’s  announcement  by  Maurice  Blackburn  gives  Queensland  taxi  licence  owners  and operators  an  opportunity  that  wasn’t  available  yesterday.     On  that  score,  it’s  a  positive development.   However,  our  advice to members would be to  take the time to weigh up their options carefully before committing to join this class action.  When something sounds too good to be true, it always pays to do some research to prove whether that may be the case, or not.”