Who is taking group action against Uber and why?
London is renowned for its iconic black cabs and, given the allegations of Uber’s unlawful operations in a number of places, it was only a matter of time until Uber’s activity in London came under scrutiny. Mishcon de Reya researched the issues involved and discussed them with key stakeholders in the London cab trade, this research identified that a claim could be brought by London cab drivers in a group action. In order to bring this group claim the Cabbie Action Group has been established, Mishcon de Reya will be the lawyers who will represent Cabbie Action Group and Harbour has agreed to fund the claim that Cabbie Action Group will bring.
Group action is a term used in the UK for when multiple claimants sharing grievances with common characteristics join together to seek a remedy against the same or multiple defendants. In other jurisdictions, this is often called a class action. In England and Wales, there are various procedural mechanisms available to bring group actions which are becoming far more regularly used. Group litigation can redress the balance between individuals and large, well-funded defendants as by joining together individuals can benefit from collective strength, expertise and the sharing of costs and risks, thereby facilitating access to justice.
The group action will bring a claim in the High Court by licensed taxi drivers in London against Uber for loss of income on the basis that Uber has operated unlawfully under the relevant statutory framework between mid 2012 until at least the end of 2017, with the intention of causing loss to the licensed taxi trade.
We believe Uber’s failure to adhere to the statutory framework to the detriment of licensed taxi drivers who operate lawfully is fundamentally unfair and Uber should be held responsible for its actions.
The focus for now is for Cabbie Group Action to build support for the claim by ensuring as many licensed cab drivers hear about the claim as possible and register their interest to join Cabbie Action Group. Once this “book building” stage is complete, a representative committee of drivers will be formed. This committee will take decisions and provide instructions to Mishcon de Reya about the conduct of the litigation on behalf of Cabbie Action Group. This is common practice in group actions and details will be provided in due course of how that committee will operate.
We are still in the early stages of embarking on the claim. The first step is to sign up as many eligible drivers as possible to participate in the claim over the next few months. We will be able to advise further on timescales once this process has concluded.
We believe that it is possible to demonstrate a significant overall loss of income to licensed taxi drivers collectively following Uber’s entry into the London market. The period we are looking at is June/July 2012 to at least end of December 2017.
The total value of the claim will depend on the number of licensed taxi drivers who participate We are working with economists and expect that damages could be in excess of £500 million. As we collect data from participants, we shall we able to more accurately and robustly estimate the loss attributable to Uber’s alleged unlawful operation.
Mishcon de Reya is a law firm based in London, with significant experience in group litigation. It is taking forward the group action against Uber. In the past few years it has acted for claimant groups in cases involving RBS, Royal Mail and Google.
Harbour is a leading litigation funding firm. Harbour will be funding the group action, subject to a minimum number of drivers signing up, and will take on all of the drivers’ costs of bringing the claim in return for a share of any damages awarded.
Newington Communications is a corporate and public affairs agency and is supporting Mishcon de Reya in its communications around the group action, to help get as many drivers involved as possible.
Newington Communications works with a number of players in the taxi sector, including the LTDA and sponsors of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Taxis. On this group action, Newington is working on behalf of Mishcon de Reya and is focused on supporting a successful group action through communications.
The group action is open to all taxi drivers licensed by TfL to operate in London, not just LTDA members. Mishcon de Reya, supported by Harbour and Newington, are working to engage all of the relevant taxi associations and representative bodies to secure support for this group action and to help reach as many drivers as possible.
How do I join the group action and what is needed from me?
Any taxi driver licensed by Transport for London (TfL) to work in London may be eligible to take part in the group action, provided you operated as a licensed taxi driver for some or all of the period between mid 2012 to December 2017 or later.
Private hire vehicle drivers or taxi drivers licensed by authorities other than TfL are not eligible.
At this early stage, you only have to provide your name, badge number and contact details to register an interest in taking part. If you express an interest in the claim, it does not commit you to formally participate in any subsequent litigation.
Once you have registered an interest in taking part, you will receive contact with further details of the group action and how it works. You will be asked for more information about how Uber has caused losses to you personally.
Registering your interest does not mean that you have to participate; you can make this decision once you have received further information about the group action.
We will provide further details of this to all those who have registered interest in taking part, so that you can make an informed choice about participation.
Your information will be held securely by Mishcon de Reya and its Agents, and by Newington Communications, and nobody outside the teams in these organisations working on the group action will be able to access it.
Under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) you have the right to request at any point what information is being held about you by Mishcon de Reya and by Newington Communications.
What does the group action mean for me?
The participating black cab driver’s legal costs of bringing the claim will be entirely funded by a third-party funder, Harbour Litigation Funding, subject to a minimum number of drivers signing up to participate. There will also be an insurance policy to protect against exposure to Uber’s costs, should the company successfully defend the claim.
If the group action is successful and compensation is received, Harbour Litigation Funding will receive a share of each participant’s damages awarded not exceeding 30%. If the group action is unsuccessful, you will not have to repay Harbour any money.
Expressing an interest at this early stage of the claim does not mean you have signed up to the group action. Up until a claim has been issued on your behalf, you can remove yourself from the group action without any cost associated with that withdrawal.
Once a claim has been issued, i.e. you have agreed to participate in the group action rather than express an interest, you can still remove yourself from the group action but there may be a cost to you in doing so. All information regarding the group action will be shared with you before you have to agree to participate so that you can make an informed decision.
If the group action is successful, each claimant who has participated will be awarded a share of damages, less the share of proceeds returned to Harbour Litigation Funding to cover the costs of the dispute (see above).
We have secured funding from a Harbour Litigation Funding, a leading litigation funder, subject to a minimum amount of licensed taxi drivers signing up to participate.
This means that if the claim proceeds, you will not have to pay your own legal fees, whether the group action is successful or not.
There will also be an insurance policy to protect against exposure to Uber’s costs, should the company successfully defend the claim. Whilst no litigation is entirely risk free, we believe that the insurance policy will be more than adequate costs protection and it can, in any event, be increased at Harbour’s expense, should the need arise. Should you have any questions about the insurance policy, please contact at us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 3321 7000.
Whilst Harbour will fund all of the drivers’ legal costs of pursuing the claim and an insurance policy will be purchased to protect against Uber’s costs should the claim fail, there is a very small risk that the insurance policy may be inadequate to cover all of Uber’s costs.
It might reassure you if we summarise therefore how unlikely this issue is going to be:
- Mishcon, their barrister Queens Counsel and Harbour all think the claim has good chances of success. The insurance would only ever be needed if that is wrong.
- The amount of insurance cover will be assessed based on what are estimated to be Uber’s reasonable, recoverable costs.
- There is the ability to top up the insurance cover during the case, for an additional premium, if it is felt prudent to do so. That would be paid for by Harbour.
- The insurance will only become relevant if there is no settlement and the case fights all the way to trial, and the claimants lose.
- Even in that scenario, the claimants have the right to assess Uber’s costs and only proportionate costs will be recoverable.
- After all that, if there is an uninsured element left over, the relationship between the participating drivers is structured that each driver would only be exposed to their pro rata share, which, in this highly improbable scenario, is very unlikely to exceed a few hundred pounds per driver.
Should you have any queries about the insurance, please do contact us at email@example.com or 020 3321 7000 and we would be happy to advise you further.
We do not anticipate any other financial risks to you from taking part in the group action.
While we are not restricting participants from discussing the group action with friends and family or online, this will be a legal case. As such we advise caution in saying anything that could prejudice the result of the group action.
All requests from journalists will be handled by Newington Communications. If you would like to act as a spokesperson or provide a case study to the media about how Uber’s operations have affected you, you can volunteer to do this, but you will not be asked to speak to the media if you do not want to.
If you are retired, you may be able to participate in the group action. You would need to have been working as a taxi driver in the period that Uber has been operating in London, in order to demonstrate the loss of earnings sustained.
As such, drivers who retired before 2012 are excluded from this group action.
At the moment the claim is focused on individual licensed taxi drivers in London but we continue to consider other possible claimants.