Uber To Pay $271.8 Million To Compensate 8,000 Australian Taxi Drivers In World’s First Uber Settlement.

Photo: TripAdvisor. An Australian taxi.
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After once being described as coming to Australia “illegally, like pirates”, Uber has agreed to pay millions of dollars in compensation to thousands of small-scale taxi drivers and operators in the  world’s first class action settlement.

The class action was filed in 2019 by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers on behalf of more than 8,000 thousand taxi and hire car owners and drivers who lost income and licence values when Uber moved into the market.

It’s a blow to the rideshare giant, which experts say will now need to find the money to pay the settlement in a vastly different industry it disrupted more than a decade ago.

Uber agreed to pay $271.8 million to Australian taxi and hire car drivers, operators and licence holders to compensate them for losing income and licence values when it moved into the local market.

Robert Nicholls, an associate professor in regulation and governance at the University of Sydney, said Uber “decimated” the taxi industry when it entered the Australian market unregulated.

“So in each state or territory where Uber offers services, there was no regulation either to omit them or stop them, and the effect of that was dramatic,” he told ABC News.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers principal Michael Donelly said the settlement was preceded by a five-year legal battle in which Uber “fought tooth and nail at every point along the way”.

“But on the courtroom steps and after years of refusing to do the right thing by those we say they harmed, Uber has blinked, and thousands of everyday Australians joined together to stare down a global giant,” Mr Donelly said.

Former Transport Matters Victorian MP Rod Barton, who helped bring the case to the lawyers, said it was a significant win.

“This is about how they got into the market, but make no mistake – we’re going to have to talk to the government about their role,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne.

“We need to have a look at how do we fix the taxi industry to make sure that we have a taxi industry in 10 years’ time.”

Uber has defended its entry into the Australia market, saying: “A decade ago, ridesharing regulations did not exist anywhere in the world, let alone Australia.”

“Today is very different,” the rideshare giant said in a statement provided to the ABC.

“Uber is now regulated in every state and territory across Australia, and governments recognise us as an important part of the nation’s transport mix.

“Since 2018, Uber has made significant contributions into various state-level taxi compensation schemes, and with today’s proposed settlement, we put these legacy issues firmly in our past.”

Nick Andrianakis, a taxi driver, operator and licence owner, was forced out of business when Uber entered the Australia market.

When the class action was filed in Victoria’s Supreme Court in 2019, Mr Andrianakis was chosen as the lead plaintiff.

“When Uber came to our shores illegally, like pirates, they broke every law, every regulation,” he said at the time.

Now, Mr Andrianakis has described the multi-million-dollar settlement as “a win for small businesses of mum and dad investments, a win for taxi drivers, taxi operators [and] hire car operators”.

“We suggested that Uber acted illegally and they needed to pay — and that they have today,” he said outside court.

While class action members will receive a payment, Dr Nicholls says the case doesn’t mean the industry will return to how it originally operated before Uber’s arrival.

“So many of the individual drivers probably drive for Uber and Didi now, rather than hail a taxi,” he said.

Source: Australian Broadcasting Company.
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