Victoria’s Taxi Services Commission has turned up the heat on Uber’s risesharing service, Uber-X, ordering it to cease operations because it is “illegal” and issuing fines of up to $7,500 to driver found operating illegally. From The Australian:
The moves represent a significant hardening of the commission’s position on Uber…
Victorian Taxi Association spokeswoman Georgia Nicholls welcomed the commission’s move.
“It’s a very difficult position that the regulator has been put in, to deal with companies that have no regard for the law,” Ms Nicholls said.
A commission spokeswoman said it sent Uber a cease-and-desist letter on October 23.
“By doing so, the TSC has made it clear to Uber that its UberX product is illegal in Victoria in its current format,” she said…
Uber’s high-end Uber Black service, which uses accredited drivers and licenced drivers, was legal and welcomed by the commission “as it increases competition and provides more choice for passengers”.
However, UberX drivers use their own car to pick up fares booked through a smartphone app.
“Unlike the Uber Black product, UberX does not generally use accredited drivers or licenced vehicles, which means the service is operating outside the law. These issues may pose a safety issue for both passengers and drivers,” she said.
Quite frankly, the claims about safety do not pass the laugh test.
Uber-X’s drivers must be over 24 years of age and have no criminal record. Vehicles must also be covered by comprehensive insurance, have at least four doors and be manufactured after 2005.
Unlike taxis, where it is pot-luck who your driver is, Uber-X also allows customers to view the drivers’ rankings and their reputation via their website, which allows customers some control over who their driver is. It is also in the drivers’ best interest to impress you, as after your journey is complete, you are required to give them a rating out of 5 stars. A low star rating results in less fares for the driver.
Further, journeys are tracked via GPS, which affords an additional level of safety for customers.
One wonders whether the so-called ‘accreditation’ process undertaken by taxi drivers isn’t just window dressing anyway, given the common perception is that taxi drivers are some of the most erratic and worst drivers on our roads.
Ridesharing should be encouraged by both regulators and policy makers alike, since it would provide greater choice to consumers and lower transport costs, while also improving productivity by facilitating a more efficient use of the existing transport fleet. Ridesharing would also offer drivers greater options to derive an income, without paying exorbitant licence fees or rents to taxi plate owners.
All that should be required to operate a ridesharing service is a late model roadworthy car, a valid drivers’ licence, and comprehensive insurance. Adults in Australia should then be free to choose their transport options. If they do not trust Uber-X and want to take a taxi. Fine, take a taxi. Similar, if they want to use Uber-X, let them exercise their choice and do so.
However, consumers’ choices should not be limited by out-dated regulations that seem more interested in protecting the taxi industry, rather than offering consumers real value.