Aussie Taxi Companies Just Can't Get Any Love From The ACCC

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission doesn't like iHail, the Aussie taxi-booking app proposed by a consortium of local taxi companies including Cabcharge. First, the app was rejected on grounds that it would be anticompetitive, unifying several of Australia's tightly regulated large taxi providers and giving them extra power against smaller competitors. (To say nothing of a level playing field with Uber.) Now, iHail's in hot water over payment methods and credit card surcharges.

The most recent submission to the ACCC from iHail notes the fact that the Commission is concerned that only one method of payment -- credit card (or a Cabcharge-branded charge card) -- is available through the app, but that each taxi fare estimation through that app doesn't include the 5 to 10 per cent credit card payment surcharge.

iHail says it can include this surcharge on a state by state basis (it's 5 per cent in NSW, but 10 per cent in Victoria, for example), but that it can't alter the fare estimator to take different payment methods into account. That means iHail will give accurate estimates if you pay by credit card, but you'll actually be charged less if your business has a Cabcharge account.

These are regulatory hurdles that a mobile payment service like Uber will not have to jump through, but decades of legislation and the extensive regulation of accredited taxi services in Australia's cities and towns clearly requires more careful thought and judgement from the ACCC.

After all, if and when an app like iHail is allowed onto smartphone app markets, the taxi providers that have access to it will be able to offer iHail rides anywhere they operate, while Uber requires individual drivers to sign up, and to reach a critical mass in non-capital cities and areas like the Mornington Peninsula and the Gold Coast before it can launch new locations.

The soonest that the ACCC will issue its final decision will be in February of next year. So if you were hanging out to book all your taxi travel through one straightforward service, you're still stuck with Uber, or one of the less attractive homegrown alternatives like ingogo or GoCatch. [ACCC]

Taxi image via Shutterstock

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