15 Jun 2016

Uber drivers ordered off the road

3:02 pm on 15 June 2016

Online ride-sharing business Uber is coming under increasing pressure from New Zealand authorities for failing to comply with the law.

A mans hand holding a smartphone with the Uber app running

Uber app Photo: Public domain

In April, the global giant, which is seeking to radically change the taxi business by allowing people to work as cab drivers in their spare time, started hiring drivers without passenger licences.

The licences are required by law for anybody taking passengers for payment and cost drivers a significant amount of money.

The New Zealand Transport Agency has ordered seven of the company's drivers off the road, five in the past month alone. It has also issued 34 formal warnings and 11 infringement notices.

Those choosing to ignore the sanctions could potentially face a $10,000 court fine.

The agency has also issued 756 letters to those it believes might be considering driving for Uber, warning them of the consequences for breaching transport laws.

In a statement, it said the police checks Uber did on its drivers were far less rigourous than what the agency required of drivers.

"As a safety regulator we have no interest in standing in the way of innovation, but we have an obligation to ensure that people carrying passengers for a living have been properly vetted for criminal convictions, including any overseas convictions, risky health issues or other matters which could put the travelling public at risk."

Uber has not said if it will pay the fines issued to its drivers but has issued a statement saying it will stand by them.

"No one should be penalised for providing safe, reliable rides in their city, and we will stand by our driver-partners 100 percent.

"We hope the government recognises that these local drivers are looking to earn a flexible income and decides to support them by creating regulations that open up economic opportunity and choice."