Victoria to regulate Uber services

The Australian state of Victoria has heeded a worried taxi industry, and is preparing to regulate the ride-sharing service Uber.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

The Victorian government is preparing to regulate ride-sharing service Uber amid concerns from the local taxi industry.

The state government is working on a regulatory regime that addresses passenger safety, driver and vehicle standards, and insurance issues.

"I'm concerned to make sure that we properly regulate the pre-booked-only trade," Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters.

Technology had got ahead of the law, and the government would have more to say on this soon, he said.

A report by the Victorian Taxi Association on Tuesday said that the industry injects AU$200 million a year into state and federal coffers.

It employs 17,000 Victorians and helps to keep the state's elderly, disabled, and veterans mobile as they take 2.6 million taxi rides each year.

Association chief executive David Samuel said a level playing field is needed for all commercial passenger vehicle service providers.

The Victorian opposition said Uber is here to stay, and the government is taking too long to act.

Regulation should involve an annual fee to operate as an Uber driver, compared to taxi licences, which are one-off purchases, Liberal leader Matthew Guy told reporters.

"Ride sharing like Uber is here ... the government needs to step up and get on with it," he said.

On Monday, the New South Wales Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) authority issued 40 suspension notices to UberX drivers.

"Thousands of dollars in fines have already been issued to drivers offering illegal ride-sharing activities, and compliance actions will continue," an RMS spokesperson said. "If drivers continue to offer illegal ride-sharing services, they will continue to risk registration suspensions and fines."

The suspensions are due to kick in from midnight on Wednesday, and will be in effect for three months. A suspended vehicle found on the road after October 1 will face penalties of AU$637 for each offence, increasing to around AU$2,200 if heard in court, the RMS spokesman added.

In response, Uber said in a statement that it is shocked the RMS did not show its drivers due process, and that the company is looking into legal options to reverse the decision.

Uber has been the subject of much consternation around the country, with the Western Australian government looking to opt for regulating Uber after it had previously threatened to prosecute Uber drivers for illegally operating a taxi service.

The Queensland government is keeping its options open, and has not ruled out allowing Uber to coexist with taxis.

With AAP

Editorial standards