July 23, 2015 / 6:30 PM / 2 years ago

Toronto cab drivers sue to halt Uber; seek C$400 mln in damages

TORONTO, July 23 (Reuters) - Toronto taxi drivers are launching a class-action lawsuit against ride-sharing company Uber Technologies Inc, seeking more than C$400 million ($307.27 million) in damages and an injunction to stop it operating in the Canadian province of Ontario.

Law firm Sutts, Strosberg LLP, which is representing the taxi drivers, said in a statement on Thursday that the named plaintiff, cab driver Dominik Konjevic, alleges that “Uber X and Uber XL have created an enormous marketplace for illegal transportation in Toronto”.

Jay Strosberg, a partner at the law firm, said the proposed case covers all drivers and taxi companies in Ontario. If a judge agrees to hear the case, drivers and cab companies can choose to be omitted.

“This protectionist suit is without merit,” Uber Canada spokeswoman Susie Heath said via email. “As we saw from a recent court ruling in Ontario, Uber is operating legally and is a business model distinct from traditional taxi services.”

Uber is fighting for legal status in cities around the world as authorities weigh the legality of its phone-based app.

The low-cost Uber X service is the San Francisco-based company’s most controversial, since it uses contract drivers who are not licensed as taxi operators.

An Ontario court earlier this month rejected the City of Toronto’s bid to halt Uber’s activities in Canada’s largest city, saying there was no evidence the company operates as a taxi broker.

Strosberg said the class action case is based on provincial law, distinguishing it from the municipal regulations in question in the earlier Toronto case.

Toronto Mayor John Tory has said he wants city council to update bylaws to incorporate Uber, which he says is operating outside the current, outdated rules.

On Wednesday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio postponed a vote on whether to cap Uber’s growth in the city.

News of the proposed class action by Toronto cab drivers comes on the same day that Uber Canada said it is expanding to more Ontario cities, including Hamilton and Guelph.

In Canada, the ride-sharing app is already operational in Ottawa, Edmonton and Montreal as well as Toronto. Uber withdrew from Vancouver after a moratorium was imposed.

$1=$1.30 Canadian Editing by Peter Galloway

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