Victorian Taxi commissioner says Uber could help reform industry

Ride-sharing services like Uber could help give the Victorian taxi industry the kick it needs to change archaic rules and regulations.

While the app-based transport business has been accused of providing an illegal service, Victorian Taxi Service commissioner Graham Samuel says it is one of the many disruptive technologies that the industry needs to keep up with. The Uber app connects drivers in private cars with those wanting to travel in and around Melbourne.

"The use of cars, in the way Uber does it, is illegal," Samuel told Fairfax radio on Wednesday. "But at long last, they are coming to the party to try and make their operations legal, their drivers are now required to get accredited."

Samuel said drivers need accreditation because without it, there is no record of who they are, and no possibility of tracking them down if something goes wrong.

He said Uber -- and other companies across the globe -- are flouting current laws, which he called arcane; and they are getting away with it.

"In many, many industries, the new processes and smartphone apps have the ability to track where drivers are, book a cab and pay using the app," he said.

"The law, ultimately, has to catch up."

He said that many changes had already been put in place during his tenure, but that it is a matter for the state's new Andrews government to continue to reform the industry.

Uber apologises for surge pricing during Sydney siege

Uber recently found itself in hot water when it charged up to four times its normal rate while Sydney's financial district was in lockdown during the Lindt cafe siege. ZDNet confirmed at the time that the minimum fare for a trip began at AU$65.

On Christmas Eve, Uber sent out an apology to its users.

"The events of last week in Sydney were upsetting for the whole community, and we are truly sorry for any concern that our process may have added," it said.

"We didn't stop surge pricing immediately. This was the wrong decision."

The company said it had refunded all the fares resulting from surge pricing for that day, and intended to improve its processes.

"It's unfortunate that the perception is that Uber did something against the interests of the public.

"Please know that we have listened to the feedback and we are working to standardise a global policy to ensure we're serving communities in the most efficient, effective, and helpful way possible at all times."

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