Uber is blocking Qld Govt inspectors from using its service … because it can


blog It’s no secret that ride-sharing and transportation company Uber doesn’t precisely have the best relationship with state governments. The company is currently fighting a running battle all around Australia (except in Canberra, where it has been largely welcomed by the sensible ACT Legislative Assembly) merely to operate its services. The situation is especially fraught in Queensland, where the Government is seeking to actually fine Uber drivers for merely doing their job.

However, according to the Brisbane Times, Uber is fighting back by … blocking the Queensland Government’s inspectors from booking its services and thus being able to fine its drivers. The site reports (we recommend you click here for the full article):

The acting director of the Department of Transport and Main Roads for taxis and limousines Noela Cerutti told a committee … “They now can, with their technology, recognise not only a sim card, but the handset … “So we’ve gone through hundreds of phones trying to catch the next driver in doing the wrong thing.”

Although there is no doubt that this behaviour is probably a little unethical in terms of Uber complying with Government regulation (I never like to see companies flouting the law, although in this case the law is probably a little unclear), it is also, to my mind, quite amusing that Uber is using its own technology to block the Queensland Government from fining its drivers.

One can only chuckle when picturing a Government department buying hundreds of new SIM cards in an attempt to keep up with Uber’s blocking software.

This is a perfect example of a situation where a Government is attempting to stop the public from using a popular service based on a technological innovation which the public wants to use. In such situations, the lesson for the Government concerned is nearly always to get on board with the innovation and put some sensible safety controls around it, rather than trying to block it entirely as Queensland is trying to do.

I don’t applaud Uber’s move here. But neither would I condemn it. Australia’s personal transportation market is currently run in a highly regulated fashion which benefits the entrenched taxi industry and state governments. It’s about time it was shaken up turned into a more open system, and Uber’s move is congruent with that need. The drastic nature of the company’s action just shows how entrenched the current system is.

Image credit: stilltheone1, Creative Commons


  1. Isn’t it quite easy to circumvent? Just issue infringement notices less frequently, e.g. bi-monthly or quarterly.

    That way you only have to replace sim cards and credit cards 6 times a year. Computer algorithms are much easier to break than human will.

  2. Also, Uber doesn’t want the government to have one regulation for everyone.

    Uber only has two advantages:
    1. Its drivers & drivers assets are disposable, and responsible for all costs.
    2. It operates outside of regulation while its competition are forced to operate inside regulation.

    If an taxi operator says stuff the regulation, I will operate the way I want all in the name of competition, they would be shut down inside of a month.

  3. I agree with Kevin, the problem is its simply not a fair playing field for both Taxi and Uber drivers.

    There are issues regarding insurance and liability for Uber drivers in case of accidents or assault (both from and to the driver).
    There are also a LOT of expensive security measures required of taxi’s that Uber drivers don’t adhere to.

    As a FIFO worker in WA i speak to quite a few cabbies and they all say the same thing: we don’t have any issues competing with Uber BUT it must be a level playing field.

    If either the taxi regulations were imposed on Uber OR if the industry was deregulated then these issues would be resolved and we’d be enjoying healthy competition.

  4. I think the whole situation just went from ‘stupid’ to ‘totally f*cking mental’ when a couple of Qld taxi drivers and their mates booked an Uber and then when he arrived moments later, beat him and smashed up his car. Uber very, very quickly provided the details required to the QPS to arrest and charge the offenders, so I’m going to say they are a bit more sophisticated than people think when it comes to their app checking more than just the basics on your phone (SIM, UUID, etc.).

    FWIW, the DPP had no problem using that data to show premeditation to the Justice who has referred the case to trial on Nov 11.

    More advertising for Uber, courtesy of their simple message; consider the alternative.

    • doesn’t hurt that running out on an Uber fare is a whole lot more complicated either (bet the taxi’s are envious there too).

      Its pretty unfair to tar the industry with actions of a few idiot drivers too.

      I mean if it wasn’t for the ACCC the taxi groups would have their own uber like app now so there’s obviously plenty of folks that are trying to adapt its just governments being governments and preventing it.

  5. Would all this talk of ‘healthy competition’ end with taxi phone staff and drivers being f’ing arseholes less often? Because I’ve had none of that via Uber.

    Given taxi staff are taking it upon themselves to beat up Uber drivers, I think perhaps not.

    • Competition will do exactly that. You have an industry that has been stagnant with zero incentive to innovate or improve because there was no alternative.
      Suddenly they have someone else taking their customers because they are providing a superior service.
      Thus the taxi industry has 2 options; get better or die.
      BUT as i stated above, this needs to be a level playing field. Taxi plates in WA cost ~$250,000 in addition to installing security cameras, cabcharge console, regular servicing and the requirement to replace the cars every 5 years.
      That is a SHITLOAD of expenses that Uber drivers dont have to deal with.

      Those taxi staff will get exactly what they deserve for what they did. There is absolutely no excuse for their actions.

  6. Because it can… is very amusing.

    To think that the current taxi industry – and the on costs levied due to legislation and compliance are to improve safety of drivers with things like 24 hour fireproof, tamper proof CCTV. Even with this, could the perpetrator of an offence or fare evader be easily identified by the authorities?

    Yet Uber knows enough to pro-actively block users of its service! I’m not suggesting that its foolproof system, but as an Uber driver I spoke with last week suggested – jobs are pre booked, locations are known, drivers and customers identities are known (this could easily be ‘verified’ more stringently if required) and fare’s are effectively prepaid.

    As such there are many uber features which arguably make trips safer than taxi’s. What would be great is a happy middle ground, the best of both worlds – that time will come, it will just take time.

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