Taxi app brawl is case of technology moving faster than regulation: NSW deputy premier

“With any change, any revolution, there’s always some ruffles," says Andrew Stoner.

A New South Wales minister said regulation is likely required to settle the taxi industry’s concerns about independent mobile apps like GoCatch which help users book a cab.

In the meantime, the state will continue to support GoCatch and other startups, said New South Wales Deputy Premier, Andrew Stoner. He spoke at a GoCatch press conference where the startup announced a new feature allowing users to send credit card payments to taxi drivers via the GoCatch app.

Independent app developers have sought regulatory intervention after the NSW Taxi Council and Crime Stoppers last week launched an ad campaign on buses and the backs of cabs urging consumers to avoid apps that don't have the Council's approval, such as GoCatch.

“With any change, any revolution, there’s always some ruffles,” Stoner said. “The fact is technology does bring change, and GoCatch is innovative and is changing the scene.”

“This is a case where technology is getting ahead of regulation, and regulation is probably going to have to catch up.”

Stoner said his role as minister for trade and investment role is to back entrepreneurs and help startups become commercial. GoCatch “is the sort of startup we really want to support”.

An ongoing review of the Passenger Transport Act will handle questions of what apps like GoCatch means for the taxi industry, he said. The NSW Taxi Council can raise their concerns in that context, he said.

“The review is going to have to consider the impact of GoCatch, of course,” he said. However, he added that the issues may be “bigger than New South Wales”.

“There’s no contradiction whatsoever” for the government to support GoCatch while the review is under way," said Stoner.

“If we can achieve improvements in customer service, great competition, better safety for passengers and drivers—whether that’s through regulation or technology, we’re happy to consider it all.”

GoCatch worked with the National Australia Bank (NAB) and eWAY to develop the credit card functionality for its app. Payments require both the driver and passenger to have the GoCatch app on their smartphones.

Stoner said he hasn’t used the GoCatch app, but is keen to try. “I have a driver here in Sydney, but I visit other cities, and the guys tell me they’re going to add hire cars to it. I want it.”

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