Quebec government faces $1 billion class action over Uber pilot program

Published: November 5, 2018

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A class-action lawsuit filed by taxi representatives against the Quebec government against laws allowing Uber to run in the province will go ahead.

A Quebec Superior Court justice has given the class-action lawsuit a greenlight. Taxi operatives in the province are suing the government over its handling of Uber, specifically the pilot program that allows the ride-sharing company to operate legally in Quebec. If successful, the government will be on the hook for over $1 billion.

Damas Metellus has been named as the plaintiff in the suit, although he represents taxi owners and drivers in Quebec. The traditional taxi industry say it has been harmed by Uber’s legalization, not least because Uber drivers do not face the strict regulations or costs of cab drivers.

Quebec introduced its pilot program in 2016 and has extended it twice since then, including this year into 2019. However, Uber has been operating in Quebec since 2013 and spent three years unregulated and functioning in a grey area of the law.

Taxi drivers and companies are seeking $1,000 in damages for each member, and the loss in value of their permits. In total, the government would be left paying more than $1 billion if it loses, said lawyer Marc Antoine Cloutier.

“Each taxi driver, especially in Montreal, loses a lot of money each day,” he said.

“It’s a very difficult time for them because they lost a lot of clients.”

Pilot Extension

Last month, the Quebec government extended the pilot program for another year. This is the second time the pilot has been extended, albeit with modifications last year. Among the changes introduced in 2017 included requirements for drivers mandating them to undergo more training. Quebec also created stricter rules for background checks and mechanical checks on vehicles.

Last year’s new rules irked Uber enough that it threatened to leave Quebec entirely. However, the company later decided to remain and work with authorities on the rules. “We recognize there is an opportunity to establish a constructive dialogue aimed at finding a lasting solution for riders and drivers in Quebec,” Uber Quebec general manager Jean-Nicolas Guillemette said in a statement.