WA’s state legislation no match for Uber

The head of a new app-based passenger charter service has labelled West Australian transport regulation and set fees as “old stuff” and “antiquated”, saying it was up to individual drivers choose whether they abided by the law.

Uber regional director Mike Brown, in Perth on Wednesday for the app’s launch, said the state’s current mandatory fee for any standard charter vehicle was too high.

Under WA law, charter vehicle operators are required to hit customers with an up front $60 fee, regardless of how far they might be traveling.

Mr Brown said Uber set its fares on time and distance without having to consider the $60 fee.

“You shouldn’t have to pay $60 if you want to get home from a restaurant, or a bar or a business meeting – if it’s only [for instance] four kilometers away,” he said.

“Drivers can choose if they want to participate [not charge the $60].”

Mr Brown said Uber would support any drivers who chose not to charge the fee, but the individuals would be responsible for any fines or penalties imposed by the government.

Transport Minister Dean Nalder said he recognised the need to reform services to respond to consumer demand and the department would review standard charter vehicle operators.

Mr Nalder said Uber did not hold responsibility for its drivers.

“The dispatch service which books the ride is not relevant,” he said.

“The responsibility lies with drivers to ensure they are complying with the laws as they will be the ones who incur a penalty. This could ultimately result in the loss of their licence.”

Taxi Council of WA chief executive Steven Gill said Uber needed to respect the rules of the taxi industry.

“Our rules and regulations are put in place for a reason – we don’t get to pick and choose what legislations we abide by,” Mr Gill said.

Mr Nalder said his primary concern was the safety of passengers and drivers.

“A taxi can be a vulnerable environment for both parties,” he said.

“This is why initiatives such as cameras in taxis and the compulsory reporting of criminal offenses committed by taxi drivers to the Department of Transport have been put in place.”

Mr Brown said all drivers were required to have commercial insurance and the F-extension on their driver’s licence – meaning they had full criminal background checks.

Fares are charged automatically to commuter’s credit cards via the Uber smartphone app to remove the risk of drivers being hassled for cash.

Uber also tracks every journey through GPS and asks commuters to rate their experience.

Uber has come to Perth and the taxi industry is wary - just as it was in London, where drivers protested en masse.

Uber has come to Perth and the taxi industry is wary – just as it was in London, where drivers protested en masse. Photo: Bloomberg

“You never have to fiddle with cash, you don’t have to worry about whether the machine in the car is broken to swipe your credit card, because all of that happens on the internet,” Mr Brown said.

“If you have a bad experience, let’s say the driver drives too fast or you’re uncomfortable with something the driver said, or perhaps it’s the smell of the car – we receive all those comments locally and we take action.”

Mr Gill said he was confident the app would not threaten taxi business.

“It’s far more expensive than taxis,” Mr Gill said.

“Budget conscious commuters, we hope, will continue to use the taxi service because it’s offering the best service it has in a long time and is good value for money.”



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