$1B class-action suit against Quebec's handling of Uber will go ahead

A Quebec Superior Court justice has authorized a class-action lawsuit against the provincial government over its handling of Uber. If successful, the suit could cost the province more than $1 billion.

Lawsuit alleges government allowed Uber to operate for 5 years without enforcing the law equitably

The suit alleges that the provincial government did not enforce its laws when it allowed Uber to operate in Quebec.

A Quebec Superior Court justice has authorized a class-action lawsuit against the provincial government over its handling of Uber.

If successful, the suit could cost the province more than $1 billion.

Damas Metellus, the plaintiff named in the suit, represents Quebec taxi-cab owners and drivers who say their livelihoods have been threatened by Uber's operation in the province.

The suit covers the two years since the government launched a pilot project allowing Uber to operate in the province, as well as the three years prior to that, when Uber operated in a grey zone in Quebec.

The claimants are seeking $1,000 in damages for each member of the class action, in addition to the loss in value of their permits — amounting to a total of more than $1 billion, said lawyer Marc-Antoine Cloutier.

"Each taxi driver, especially in Montreal, loses a lot of money each day," said Cloutier.

"It's a very difficult time for them because they lost a lot of clients."

Cloutier is also representing taxi drivers in a separate class action case currently before the courts challenging the legality of the pilot project.

He says he is also hoping to begin negotiations later this year with the government over Uber's future status in the province.

Pilot project extended

The government has already decided to extend the pilot project for a third year — after which it will have to decide whether Uber will be allowed to operate in Quebec on a permanent basis.

"They will have to change the law if they want Uber's activities to continue in Quebec," said Cloutier.

And as they do that, "we have to think about the driver in the street," he said.

The suit alleges that, before the pilot project was launched, the government was not doing its duty to enforce taxi regulations on Uber drivers, which it says created unfair competition for traditional cab drivers.

Once the pilot project was established, the suit alleges that Uber drivers were still operating under different conditions than taxi permit holders.

Those permits, of which there are 7,600 in the province, were worth about $178,000 when Uber set up operations in Quebec. Their value has since dropped to about $100,000.

Earlier this year, Quebec budgeted $250 million in compensation for permit holders to make up for the loss in permit values. Each permit holder would get about $30,000 with that funding.

Transports Québec said it would not comment while the matter is before the courts.