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Taxi union files class-action request against Uber
Jason Magder
March 11, 2016

The union representing thousands of taxi drivers filed a request in court Friday for permission to launch a class-action suit against the upstart mobile ride-hailing application Uber.

The union says Uber, which allows drivers to chauffeur others using their personal cars and charge them a fee, is engaging in unfair competition.

“We don’t know exactly how much it will be, but it will be in the tens of millions of dollars,” said Benoit Jugand, a spokesperson for the Regroupement des travailleurs autonomes-Métallos, the union that represents about half the roughly 10,000 taxi drivers on the island of Montreal.

In Quebec, those affected by a class-action suit are automatically eligible for damages if any are awarded, and must opt out if they don’t wish to be part of the action.

Jugand said the action taken Friday is in the name of taxi drivers in Longueuil, Laval, and Quebec City as well.

“It’s any city in the province where Uber is operating,” Jugand said.

Jugand said taxi drivers are missing out on about $50 per day in fares since Uber was established. He added that his union figures taxi permits in markets where Uber is operating have decreased by nine per cent on average in the province. However, a recent Montreal Gazette investigation has shown that the value of taxi permits was not affected in Montreal, Longueuil and Laval in the first six months since Uber started offering its Uber X service, which allows owners of private cars to charge money to give others rides.

Friday’s action is one of two court filings by the taxi union. Last month, the union filed a request for an injunction, asking a judge to order Uber to cease operations in the province since its drivers do not hold valid taxi licences. Taxi drivers must buy or rent licences, which fetch up to $200,000 on the secondary market. Taxi drivers say that puts them at a disadvantage against Uber because they have more upfront costs.

The injunction case will be heard at the Montreal courthouse starting Monday.

In recent weeks, Uber has been the subject of public hearings at the National Assembly, and Transport Minister Jacques Daoust has promised to introduce legislation by the end of this month. He is considering buying back taxi permits and increasing penalties for Uber drivers.

About 1,000 vehicles driven by Uber drivers have been seized since the company began operations in the fall of 2014. All those seizures have been appealed, and Uber is paying for a lawyer to challenge them in court.

A spokesperson for Uber did not return a request for comment by Friday afternoon.