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Legal action launched against BMW and Mercedes-owned company over alleged unlawful treatment of FREENOW private hire drivers

Law firm Leigh Day has launched a group legal claim against FREENOW, a ride hailing app owned by BMW Group and Mercedes-Benz Mobility, arguing that the company is treating its private hire drivers unlawfully.

Posted on 29 November 2023

The lawyers say at least 20,000 FREENOW private hire drivers could be owed thousands of pounds for being denied workers’ rights such as holiday pay and the national minimum wage.

If the legal claim is successful, Leigh Day will claim backpay for unpaid holiday and compensation for any underpayment of the national minimum wage for the entire period private hire drivers who join the claim have worked for FREENOW. The claim against FREENOW is similar to Leigh Day’s successful claim brought against Uber.

FREENOW, which is based in Germany, operates in over 150 cities across Europe. It provides private hire vehicles, e-scooters, car sharing, taxis, public transport services, e-bikes, and e-mopeds. FREENOW operates private hire services in London and the South East of England.

Leigh Day argues that the way FREENOW private hire drivers work means that they are workers rather than self-employed contractors. The claim will ensure that private hire drivers receive access to workers’ benefits and are protected under employment law.

FREENOW private hire drivers are eligible to join the claim if they have driven for the company in the last 10 weeks. The claim is ‘opt in’, meaning that drivers need to sign up in order to receive compensation should the claim be successful. The claim is not applicable to black cab drivers using the platform.

All FREENOW private hire drivers are potentially eligible to join the claim whether they have signed FREENOW’S new ‘worker’ contract or the new ‘independent contractor’ contract. Leigh Day’s case is that all FREENOW private hire drivers are workers, irrespective of how FREENOW describes them in its paperwork. 

Leigh Day acts under ‘no win no fee’ agreements, meaning that private hire drivers will not have to pay anything unless the claim is successful.

A FREENOW driver said: 

“I don’t feel like I have much control when working for FREENOW, and sometimes I feel pressured to do work that feels unsafe. If I cancel a certain number of trips, FREENOW locks me out of my account as a punishment and stops me from working. But I don’t know how many cancelled trips I am allowed before I am suspended. This means that if I arrive at a pick-up location that feels unsafe, for example if it’s dark with few people around, I worry that if I cancel the trip I will be suspended and lose work.”

Leigh Day employment partner Annie Powell, who is leading the claim, said:

“We believe that all FREENOW private hire drivers are workers and that they should therefore have the employment rights and legal protection that come with that status. We will argue that by labelling private hire drivers as “self-employed contractors”, the owners of the ride-hailing app, BMW and Mercedes, are responsible for denying private hire drivers basic rights like paid holidays in order to cut costs.”

To find out more about the claim and check if you are eligible, click HERE for more information.

Annie Powell
Employment Group claims

Annie Powell

Annie is a specialist employment and discrimination lawyer

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