Uber pushes for reform in wake of Harper review

Reform of taxi industry "long overdue" argued Competition Policy Review

Uber's David Rohrsheim.

Uber's David Rohrsheim.

Uber has used the Competition Policy Review, released earlier this week, to push state governments for regulatory reform.

The panel that conducted the review, chaired by Professor Ian Harper, argued that taxi reform in most states and territories "is long overdue".

"Many restrictions remain that limit competition by creating barriers to entry and preventing innovation," the panel's final report argued.

"The regulatory framework for taxi regulation could be enhanced considerably through independent regulators having the power to make determinations (rather than recommendations), including on the number and type of taxi licences to be issued.

"Mobile technologies are emerging that compete with traditional taxi booking services and support the emergence of innovative passenger transport services. Any regulation of such services should be consumer-focused, flexible enough to accommodate technical solutions to the problem being regulated and not inhibit innovation or protect existing business models.

"Further regulatory review of the industry is necessary to take account of the impact of new technologies."

The report noted that a "number of state and territory governments have determined that Uber is acting outside current industry regulations" and said that the panel does not "endorse illegal activity, nor encourage new players to ignore or defy relevant laws or regulations".

Uber's 'uberX' ridesharing service has fallen afoul of state taxi regulators with drivers facing hefty fines.

In NSW last year Uber's Sydney office was raided by police.

Read more: goCatch hits out at Uber ahead of NSW election

"As a minority of powerful taxi plate owners continue to attempt to intimidate and lobby policy makers to protect their financial interests, more and more leading voices – from Professor Harper to Federal Labor, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr, IPART and Choice – are instead listening to the Australian people and coming out in favour of choice and opportunity for all," Uber's general manager for Australia and New Zealand, David Rohrsheim, wrote in a blog entry after the release of the Harper review.

"There is a growing chorus of voices in Australia advocating for immediate change."

"uberX launched less than a year ago in Australia. In that time, hundreds of thousands of riders have chosen Uber as a safer, more reliable and more affordable way to get around their cities," Rohrsheim argued.

In the lead up to the 28 March NSW election Uber called for its customers to contact state MPs and demand regulatory reform.

Read more: Uber calls for ridesharing reform in NSW

goCatch, which produces its own taxi-booking app ahead of the election called "clear leadership" on the legal status of uberX.

"Inaction and confusion is playing into the hands of Uber which has the capacity to pay fines and fund lengthy and expensive legal action," said goCatch CEO Ned Moorfield.

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