Taxi booking service GoCatch has expanded its scope, adding an Uber-style ridesharing service.
The company launched the service today in Sydney and hopes its existing user-base and a decision to avoid Uber-style surge pricing will help give it a leg-up in the fight against the better known ridesharing service.
The ‘GoCar’ option is integrated into the existing GoCatch app as an option alongside the more familiar taxi and maxi taxi options, said GoCatch CEO Ned Moorfield.
Selecting the option will send a request to the nearest driver and the fee will be based on the time of day and distance traveled.
The absence of ‘surge pricing’ — a mechanism employed by Uber that dynamically adds a multiplier to fees charged during busy periods — is a key difference, Moorfield said.
“It’s just one of the things that people really don’t like about the Uber service and we think it goes beyond trying to match supply and demand,” the GoCatch CEO said.
“I think it’s just some real profiteering that’s going on, so we want to provide people with a lot more certainty around what they’re going to be paying at any given time.”
In place of surge pricing the service will have an on-peak rate during commute hours from Monday to Friday in the morning and Monday to Thursday in the evening, as well as later on Friday and on Saturday nights.
“People will know that in advance, so there's no more of this shock at the end,” Moorfield said.
Moorfield said he expects many drivers to run both GoCatch and Uber in parallel.
“We’ve had a great response from Uber drivers so far since we’ve been on-boarding drivers over the last couple of weeks,” he said.
“They are pretty keen to have some more choice. We’re charging a lower commission for them as well, 15 per cent, and we’re paying them daily whereas Uber pays them weekly.
“These all add up for drivers to make it something that they’re pretty interested in.”
The CEO said that GoCatch’s half decade of experience in the taxi industry and 100,000 bookings a month mean it will be off to a “running start” when it comes to delivering work to drivers.
Adding an option will be appealing for passengers as well, he added.
“For some users I think us being a 100 per cent Australian-owned company will be important; I think there’s an element of people out there that like to back a local player. We’ve already got 350,000 people that are registered on our platform so we’re expecting some pretty strong uptake from those users.
“It’ll be really to people to choose which of the two that they want but I think we’re going to be a lot cheaper than Uber during those peak period when Uber’s surging and I think that will definitely draw a lot of users towards us.”
GoCatch intends to expand the GoCar service beyond Sydney but Moorfield said there was no concrete timeline. Expansion will come after making sure the service is working well in Sydney, he said.
Moorfield praised moves by the New South Wales government to legalise and regulate Uber-style services.
“Full credit to new south wales government — they’ve moved relatively quickly on this compared with a lot of the other states and they’ve done the right thing; they’ve created an environment where new players can come in and compete,” he said.
The state government in December announced it would legalise and regulate ridesharing. The announcement also included an assistance package for the taxi industry to soften the blow.
“Before the change in regulations, Uber basically had the ultimate barrier to entry, which is the law,” Moorfield said.
“We weren’t interested in going out and breaking the law, whereas Uber had the depth of funding to be able to throw money at expensive legal teams. I think how the New South Wales government has handled this has been great — they’ve run a really thorough review process.”