29 Apr 2016

Uber sticks with rule change despite warnings

7:09 pm on 29 April 2016

Uber is sticking with its rule change for drivers, despite the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) saying it's illegal.

Uber thumbnail

Uber thumbnail Photo: Public Domain

Last week, the smartphone-based driver service dropped its requirements for drivers to have a passenger (P) endorsement for their licence, or a certificate of fitness for their car.

The Taxi Federation has criticised the move, and NZTA has urged would-be Uber drivers to check the laws and requirements.

Uber driver Ben Wilson told Nine to Noon today that drivers were concerned by the changes and that they were carrying all the risk.

But Uber public policy director Brad Kitsche said drivers were not doing anything wrong and it would keep the changes in place.

"The last time I checked there was no problem with sharing a ride in your own vehicle and that's exactly what people are doing.

"They're sharing a ride in their own car that meets their needs around their other activities. That's what people are doing.

"We think that it would be completely unacceptable if the government thought to punish people for providing safe and reliable transport.

Mr Kitche said it was not necessarily the case that the changes would open drivers up to penalties and fines

"That hasn't been proven yet, that ride-sharing is the same as the service that the NZTA is saying is being offered."

He said the government did not recognise that ride-sharing could be offered in many different ways.

"That includes people sharing rides in their own car just for a couple of hours a day, or a couple of hours a week, and they need to implement a licensing regime that meets the needs of these people.

"So really the onus is up to the government now to show how they will be able to develop a licensing regime that is going to meet the needs of the sorts of people that want to get on the road and provide these kinds of rides for just a couple of hours a day or a couple of hours a week."

NZTA 'actively receiving complaints'

Despite Uber's assurances, the NZTA has urged would-be Uber drives to check the laws.

Spokesperson Celia Patrick said it was important to get the P endorsement as it was a thorough check that proved drivers were a "fit and proper person".

She said there had been a number of cases where drivers were found to be unfit to be driving passengers.

"One is a driver that we withdrew their passenger endorsement in 2014 because they had a serious medical condition, and they have now been identified as driving with Uber.

"Another case is where there is a driver who has a pending assault charge underway before the courts.

"So those are two cases where we would have real concerns and are preventing those drivers from driving.

"We're actively receiving complaints now from members of the public and so we're investigating people that are driving for Uber without the passenger endorsement."

She said the police were also doing work to find drivers without the right endorsement.

Uber 'ignoring the law'

Taxi Federation executive director Tim Reddish said Uber's move followed the results of the industry review.

"It's obvious that Uber didn't like that intention so they've decided to ignore the law and do things their way, as they have in many other countries all over the world."

He said the move was nonsense and should not be allowed to happen.

"What's going on is outrageous and it's incumbent on Land Transport New Zealand and the Police Commercial Vehicle Investigation Unit to start dealing with these drivers.

"More importantly I think the government has to have the fortitude to deal with Uber as company. It's just outrageous and passenger safety is severely at risk."

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