MORE than 1,000 taxi drivers are suing the Government over claims their property rights were breached when the industry was de-regulated.
This morning the High Court will begin hearing three test cases by taxi drivers.
The drivers bought a licence valued at IR£80,000 – close to €100,000 – before deregulation in November 2000.
Some 1,200 legal actions are awaiting the outcome of the legal proceedings.
The taxi drivers are suing the Minister for the Environment and the Attorney General – as well as Dublin City Council and Ennis Town Council.
The drivers allege that deregulation breached their property rights under the Constitution.
They have also claimed that the Government, which is defending the test cases, breached EU competition laws when the industry was liberalised.
Regulations introduced in late 2000, following a High Court action, provided that any suitably qualified person could obtain a licence, effectively liberalising the market.
Taxi drivers say the "overnight" deregulation scheme wiped out the value of their licences.
They claim a scheme to compensate past and future losses was inadequate.
The legal actions were first lodged in 2002.
After deregulation, arrangements were put in place for the introduction of a scheme of refunds by certain local authorities – primarily Dublin Corporation, now Dublin City Council – in relation to taxi licence fees.
The Finance Act 2001 also included additional "mitigating" measures, providing for a new scheme of capital allowances for expenditure incurred on the cost of taxi licences acquired on or before November 21, 2000.
There were 32,346 active taxi licences in the Irish market last August according to the National Transport Authority (NTA).