news NSW Roads and Maritime Services this week revealed it had suspended some forty owners of vehicles involved in UberX-style ride-sharing services, ruling the use of vehicles for this purpose as illegal, despite the fact that the State Government is currently conducting a review into the future of the related taxi industry.
UberX is a service provided by global transportation startup Uber which allows ordinary Australians to charge for transportation in their car, as compared to the normal Uber service which will call a commercial vehicle such as a Taxi or high-end luxury black car to your location.
In a statement issued on Sunday, NSW Roads and Maritime Services confirmed it had issued 40 suspension notices to registered owners of vehicles involved in ride sharing services which it said breached passenger transport laws.
Roads and Maritime Director of Safety and Compliance Peter Wells said the services were illegal and the NSW Government was taking action against those who used or allowed the use of their vehicle for ride sharing.
“The vehicle suspensions will take effect from midnight 30 September and will be in place for three months,” Wells said. “The suspension notices have been issued to registered owners of vehicles found to be operating a privately registered vehicle for business purposes.”
“If a suspended vehicle is found on the road after 1 October, the vehicle is deemed unregistered and uninsured, with penalties of $637 for each offence, increasing to around $2200 if heard in court. Taxi and hire car services in NSW must be provided by an operator accredited by Roads and Maritime, in a licensed and insured vehicle which is driven by an authorised driver.”
“Thousands of dollars in fines have already been issued to drivers offering illegal ride-sharing activities and compliance actions will continue. If drivers continue to offer illegal ride sharing services – they will continue to risk registration suspensions and fines.”
The news comes despite the strong popularity which Uber’s services are enjoying around Sydney, with the company saying in July that hundreds of thousands of Sydneysiders were using Uber ridesharing services as an alternative to the entrenched taxi industry.
And the news also comes despite the fact that the the NSW Government has established an independent taskforce led by Professor Gary Sturgess and Dr Tom Parry to examine the future sustainability of taxis, hire cars and other emerging point to point transport providers in NSW, including ridesharing apps. The taskforce is expected to report back to the NSW Government in October.
Uber welcomed the announcement of the taskfore as a “a victory for competition, consumers and choice”. At the time, the company said: “The announcement is a recognition of the overwhelming popular support for ridesharing, and the need for outdated regulation to catch up with changing customer choices.”
However, this week Uber said it was examining its legal options.
Something of a low blow for the NSW Government — publicly it is stating that it is reviewing the industry, but meanwhile it is having its enforcers go to town on UberX ridesharers. To my mind, the Government has no choice but to pull back from this kind of behaviour for now until it has conducted the review. Anything less shows a lack of good faith on the part of the Government.