The Uber vs. Taxi debate escalated last week when Choice released a report saying UberX was the cheaper option, and tied with taxis in safety and reliability. Since then we have seen crackdowns on Uber drivers across NSW, and ridesharing fully legalised in the ACT. Check here for all the latest on Uber and its status across Australia.
Thursday 24th September: Combined Communications Network, Australia’s largest taxi network responds to the CHOICE report with a statement from Chief Operating Officer, Stuart Overell: “I am concerned [the report] was completed and released without adequate industry consultation and appears to be price and service lead, without an in-depth consideration of safety features, GPS tracking, or taxi driver training. Many of the extensive safety features of a taxi are not obvious to a passenger. This includes tamper-proof, always-on GPS to constantly track the whereabouts of taxis, as well as permanently powered, fire resistant security cameras to capture activity inside and outside a taxi. On the other hand, ride-sharing services use the GPS tracking from phones, which is a vulnerable technology given a phone can be discarded or simply switched off – drivers, and their passengers, can simply fall off the radar at a touch of a button. Safety features are there for the protection of customers and drivers. They are mandatory for a reason.”
Sunday 27th September: Roads and Maritime Services NSW announces a crackdown on Uber drivers, with 40 suspension notices issued to owners of suspect vehicles. Any of these vehicles found on the road after October 1st will be fined as if their car were unlicensed. Uber responded, saying it was shocked that RMS would suspend drivers without due process, and vowed to keep fighting for UberX in Australia.
Monday 28th September: A Sydney UberX driver blogs his thoughts on the vehicle suspensions, like Uber he says he’s not giving up. “I was confused. The Australian Taxation Office had only recently announced Uber drivers would be required to pay GST as well as regular income tax. I didn’t know what to say. If I’m paying tax as well as GST why are my fellow drivers and I being punished by the government?”
Tuesday 29th September: NRMA responds to the RMS crackdown, siding with Uber on this one. “So currently there is a review of point-to-point ride sharing in NSW and we were surprised that Roads and Maritime took this action before the taskforce provided its recommendation to the Government,” said NRMA Insurance’s Mariana Cidade. “Ride-sharing is relatively new in Australia and customer needs and behaviours are changing and so is insurance. Our number one priority is to protect customers when they need us and that includes customers who occasionally want to use their own cars as UberX vehicles.”
Wednesday 30th September: ACT becomes the first Australian territory to regulate — and therefore fully legalise — ridesharing services like UberX. After October 30, Uber will legally be able to enter the point-to-point service market in the ACT. This comes with major reforms to the existing regulations — taxi registration fees will be cut in half at the end of October, with hire car fees also slashed. Taxis and hire cars will also be able to offer their services through networks like Uber. “What we’re seeking to do here is to improve transport services in Canberra… the expectation from where Uber has entered the market elsewhere is about 20 per cent cheaper than taxi fares in those cities where they are operating,” says ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr.
Thursday 1st October: Motoring association RACQ calls on the Queensland Government to follow ACT’s lead and legalise ridesharing, saying it is what Australian commuters need. “Making companies like Uber illegal obviously isn’t working,” says executive general manager advocacy Paul Turner. “Queenslanders are voting with their wallet and using them anyway, so we need to make sure they can do so safely, within the framework of the law. RACQ research shows 80 per cent of Queenslanders believe they should have the right to utilise both rideshare and taxi services should they choose. Politicians of all stripes and levels of government have been urging motorists to carpool for years, and now we have a genuine enabler on the table, it’s time they took a leading role in fixing this issue.”