5 Jul 2016

Crack down on Uber, urge taxi drivers

9:30 am on 5 July 2016

The Taxi Federation is demanding the government crack down on the ride-sharing service Uber, saying it is openly flouting the law.

Uber app

The Uber app. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

About 100 taxi drivers protested in Christchurch yesterday, and said their incomes have plummeted since Uber began operating.

The Transport Agency has revealed that in the past two months it has issued 52 official warnings to Uber drivers without passenger (P) licences, and ordered seven off the road.

Taxi Federation spokesperson Tim Reddish told Morning Report Uber drivers have not been made to meet the same legal requirements as taxi drivers, such as compliance costs, full criminal checks and marked cars.

"Uber claim to be a rideshare which is just a misnomer for another on-demand taxi service.

"We have no worries about the competition, what we are concerned about is an even market playing field, passenger safety guarantees, and the current legislation are being observed, and they're not being."

Taxi drivers upset at what they say is lack of action on Uber protest in Christchurch.

Taxi drivers upset at what they say is lack of action on Uber protest in Christchurch. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Transport Agency National operations manager Kate Styles told Morning Report passengers could be at risk from insufficiently vetted Uber drivers.

She said up until April the agency was comfortable that all Uber drivers had the right passenger licences, had been vetted and had the appropriate vehicles.

"Over the last two months we have been really clear with Uber that the new way they are operating is illegal."

Uber was carrying out some checks on drivers but not the full checks taxi companies carry out including getting a passenger service licence, Ms Styles said.

"And our concern has been around some of the drivers that we are aware of out there who have issues that are not being picked up by those checks."

About 1700 drivers have signed up to Uber in the past last 2 months and NZTA have sent them all letters telling them of the implications of the law, she said.

"We are making it very very clear to new drivers that come on board what their legal obligations are ... the fines will be on them, the record will be on their own drivers licence, any insurance issues they will be wearing those.

"People are under no illusion that they are liable."

Uber Drivers could apply for a passenger service licence and be fully vetted so that the NZTA decided who was on the road, not Uber, Ms Styles said.

She would not comment on any action NZTA was exploring against Uber, and the company did not respond to a request to be interviewed.