Uber drivers in Kenya  won a major stride in their case against their employer Uber Kenya Limited challenging  the firm’s  trade practices after a court in Nairobi ruled that the case had merit.

Justice David Tuyoit ruled against a preliminary objection raised by Uber Kenya against the suit  adding that its foreign arm Uber International  BV cannot be delinked from the proceedings  as the drivers “may not sustain their claim without enjoining the principals.”

“The firm had banked on the case to be dismissed…” lawyer Ekuro Aukot said after the ruling adding that now that the judge had not struck  out the case there remains amendments to be made in the plaint  before proceedings resume.

The drivers, through the Digital Taxi Association of Kenya lobby, claim that the American firm is engaging in abusive trade practices and other illegalities.

Drivers can pursue case

Uber  asked the Court to dismiss the suit, arguing that the Digital Taxi Association of Kenya is not a legal person hence has no right to sue the taxi hailing firm on behalf of drivers, an objection upheld with a rider that the driver can persue the case in their individual capacities.

The drivers have faulted Uber for refusing to increase their 75 per cent commission despite slashing fares.

On delinking the Netherlands based arm of the firm , the judge said the two companies share one address.

“It is too early  take out (UBER BV) before  investigations are complete on whether Uber Kenya is culpable…”the judge said.

He explained that the plaintiffs (read drivers) “may not sustain their claim without enjoining the principals.”

“Despite the  reduction of fares to the detriment of the plaintiffs, Uber’s commission of 25 per cent per transaction remained in force leaving the drivers to absorb all appertaining costs. Uber’s actions were actuated by malice and in furtherance of a conspiracy to exploit the plaintiffs and dominate the taxi business,” the plaint reads.

 Price cuts
The drivers says the price cuts have dented the average income of Sh500,000 each monthly.

“Some of the drivers have been unable to service their loans with financial institutions owing to the harsh conditions leading to their vehicles being repossessed and sold by the said financiers….the drivers will suffer irreparable loss and damage,” the drivers say.

Uber’s price slash followed undercutting by other taxi hailing applications like Dubai-based Mondo Ride, the Safaricom-backed Little Cab and Teke Taxi.
Uber initially charged Sh60 per kilometre and an additional Sh4 per minute above a base fare of Sh300.

The drivers  want the court to restrain the firms from varying fares without consulting them.