Under fire from taxi industry, app developers look to courts, regulators

Ingogo may take legal action over "misleading" ad campaign by the NSW Taxi Council.

Developers v. Taxis

“At the basic level, it’s about who gets to remove the frictions from the transaction, from the commerce, from the connection of passengers to taxi cabs,” said futurist and author Mark Pesce.

“The taxi cab companies of course want to remain in control of that,” Pesce said. “But in a world where every taxi cab driver is carrying around a smartphone and every passenger is carrying around a smartphone ... what do you need a dispatcher for?”

“The taxi companies have found themselves quickly, concretely undermined by this technological wave that they were not expecting.” In response, the industry will try to use advertising and legislation as tools to “bludgeon” the competition, he said.

The NSW Taxi Council said customer safety is the primary reason for its campaign against independent apps.

“Under the regulations, taxi networks guarantee that passengers receive an accredited driver in a compliant vehicle; that the journey is monitored by security cameras and GPS; that complaints can be investigated and responded to; and that lost property can be tracked,” said a spokesman for the Council.

“Every journey is accountable. But outside these regulations, there is no protection, complaints cannot be investigated and there is no accountability on service standards.”

However, Pesce disagreed that safety is a problem particular to independent taxi apps. “I don’t see the unlicensed apps being fundamentally more open to problems than a licensed app would be.”

While they may have a mutual enemy, GoCatch and Ingogo said they have no plans to join forces. Ingogo’s Petrie cited different approaches to safety by the two companies as the main reason.

“It was suggested by someone to us” to join forces, but Ingogo wants to “distance ourselves from what GoCatch is doing,” said Petrie.

Campbell said GoCatch would continue to add features to the app amid the controversy, and the company plans to announce new functionality tomorrow, he said.

It’s likely to be a long and drawn out fight, said Pesce. “Companies do not lose their monopolies easily,” he said. “Fundamentally, [the taxi companies] are fighting for their existence.”

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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Tags smartphoneappsregulationCrime StopperswirelesslawsuitgoCatchmobileNSW Taxi CouncilingogocablegaltaxipolicesafetyMark Pescecourts

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