Uber faces class action in Victoria

Cabbies in the state are backing Maurice Blackburn pursuing legal action against the ride-sharing company for operating without legal approval.

Controversial ride-hailing service Uber is facing a class action in Victoria, with around 1,000 taxi drivers backing the move from Maurice Blackburn.

The law firm will lodge a class action in the Victorian Supreme Court in the coming weeks into specifically Uber's "conspiracy to act unlawfully", senior associate Elizabeth O'Shea told AAP.

"We expect it [the class action] to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars," she said of the damages.

About 1,000 people who held a licence while Uber was "operating unlawfully" -- and believe they lost income or licence value as a result -- have joined the action.

"We are very close to finalising the timing but there is a bit of paperwork yet to be done," O'Shea said.

According to O'Shea, the lawsuit will be bankrolled externally, with AU$20 million already offered so drivers don't have to use their own cash.

"We do not want the drivers to dip into their own pockets," she said.

The full list of claimants is yet to be finalised and registration to join the action over Uber's conduct between April 1, 2014, and July 31, 2017, remains open.

Uber only received the green light to operate in the state in August 2017, however a decision passed by a Victorian County Court judge in favour of a Melbourne Uber driver in early 2016 effectively deemed the service as legal.

It had taken the state nearly three years to decide how to legislate ride-hailing services such as Uber, announcing back in September 2015 it was preparing to regulate the service amid concerns from the local taxi industry.

The legal nod to operate in Victoria was coupled with a AU$1 levy imposed on all commercial trips from the start of this year, with the revenue raised touted as replacing licence fees and help compensate taxi operators.

The Australian Taxpayers' Alliance previously condemned such levy proposals as slugging Victorians with "yet another great new tax to bail out the failing taxi industry".

"Victorians are already struggling with sluggish economic growth and increasing unemployment," said executive director of the alliance Tim Andrews said at the time. "The last thing they need is hundreds of millions of dollars of new taxes to fund corporate welfare."

After New South Wales deemed Uber as legal in December 2015, the state government applied a AU$1 levy on all taxi and ride-sharing trips, with the aim to contribute AU$100 million to pay for a compensation scheme.

ACT was the first Australian state or territory to legalise ride-sharing back in October 2015. Western Australia legalised the service in May 2016, and South Australia followed suit two months later.

In Tasmania, Uber was officially launched in November 2016, nearly a month after receiving the legal green light, and the Northern Territory changed its stance on the ride-sharing service in July this year, with a few places throughout the territory allowing Uber to operate.

With AAP

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