London’s iconic black cab drivers are discussing a plot to sue Uber for more than £1bn to compensate for loss of earnings.
The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) which has 11,000 members in London has engaged top law firm Mishcon de Reya to explore the viability of a massive class action against the company which was recently granted a 15 month extension to its operator license in the Capital following an high profile court case.
According to Sky News, sources said that if the case proceeded, the LTDA was expected to argue that all of London’s 25,000 black cab drivers had suffered lost earnings averaging around £10,000 for at least five years as a consequence of failings in the way Uber had operated. That means Uber could be liable for a bill of £1.25bn.
However, even if the case did progress there is no guarantee of success. The company, which we revealed have enjoyed private meetings with Transport for London, have recently been the victors in two court cases: not only have they had their license extended after convincing a judge they were a fit and proper company, they also will be the main victors in the judicial review failing brought by the LPHCA over TfL’s proposed operator license changes.
People close to the situation cautioned that the LTDA could decide against proceeding with a formal claim and that there was no certainty that one would succeed.
Sources said the LTDA was in initial talks with potential funders of its claim, including Harbour Litigation Funding, which describes itself as the UK’s largest provider of financing for legal cases. If it proceeds it will be a significant development in the battle of established working methods vs the gig economy.
In a statement issued to Sky News Steve McNamara, general secretary of the LTDA, said: “We’ve been approached by a number of members to help them explore whether there would be grounds for a potential class action on behalf of all taxi drivers against Uber.
“We are in the very early stages of obtaining legal advice from leading law firm Mishcon de Reya on whether this is a possibility.
“We’ll continue to do everything we can to support our members and taxi drivers across London by exploring every avenue to ensure they are treated fairly.”
Mr McNamara was damning about the decision to extend Uber’s London license, saying the case had exposed Uber’s “blatant disregard for TfL’s regulations and public safety”.
“When TfL’s lawyers grilled Uber on its handling of the 2016 data breach and its shocking failure to report sexual assaults to the police, Uber just blamed its tainted past on its former leadership.
“The justice system has failed Londoners today and let an aggressive multinational corporation win.
“Uber is not a fit and proper operator and the LTDA will be consulting its lawyers as to how we can hold it to account and keep streets safe for Londoners”.
Fareed Baloch from Zoom.taxi said the LPHD was “brave” and congratulated them for looking to “fight against monopoly in favour of diversity in the industry and the basic right of earning a livelihood in a level playing field environment.”
“The Black Cab drivers have their powerful brand to help them compete against Uber, as well as being able to pick up passengers without pre booking, but they are still feeling the consequences of Uber’s laissez faire attitude to workers’ rights and tax avoidance,” he added.
“London being the wild west of gig economy is now a thriving place for workplace regulations dodgers. Uber is no exception, blurring the lines between employment and freelance. The dilemma a Private Hire company faces today is getting fewer and fewer jobs because of Uber’s marketing muscle – helped in no small part by organisations like the BBC using ‘Uber’ like a verb for hiring a minicab.
“This means more drivers are joining Uber in the hope of more work, resulting small Private Hire companies going out of business. This is bad for competition, bad for consumers and drivers.
“Should nothing change and Uber’s monopoly is fully established, drivers will be charged more commission for using the app, making them worse off. And by that time they wouldn’t have their local companies to turn back to. They will either work on the conditions rates dictated by Uber or get replaced by autonomous cars.
“Politicians have an option whether to stay in with the big multinationals, funded by the large investment companies that people like George Osborne work for, or going back to the principles of regulation which is to aid competition.”