The Queensland Parliament in their ongoing attempts to restrict the ride-sharing service Uber in that State, passed legislation today to ban all ‘pre-booked services’. The amendment was intended by the Katter Australia Party to close any loopholes that Uber or other ride-sharing services could use to establish their service. Instead, the amendment also made all (if only briefly) other pre-booked services without a taxi licence illegal – including limousines, airport shuttle services and Barnaby Joyce’s Comcar.
So what is Uber?
Uber is a US-based ride sharing company that, through its online app, primarily allows people who own a vehicle to provide ad-hoc transportation services to anyone with the app. They provide different types of services, from everyday cars to luxury vehicles; depending on the type and country, Uber then provides insurance and purportedly conducts background checks on their drivers, who are seen as independent contractors rather than employees. There are other companies offering the same service as Uber, including the Australian-based GoCar and Lyft in New York.
It is different to a traditional taxi service as they usually only operate with government-issued taxi licences, which are generally quite expensive, and often are heavily regulated in its operation (such as pricing and safety).
What’s happening elsewhere?
What has happened in Queensland is not a unique case – across the world, there has been a lot of resistance to Uber’s entry: there have been large protests in London, Paris and Chicago; it has been completely banned in Montreal, Belgium and Spain; and restrictions have been placed on their operation in New South Wales. The case has been that Uber operates without proper licences and rules, with the local taxi industries often resistant to this new competition that generally undercuts their price.
Where does that leave Uber?
Uber believes that their service gives drivers a flexible extra source of income and provides safer and more convenient point-to-point transportation services. Taxi drivers continue to argue that Uber’s entry into the market is unfair as they do not have to pay for significant licence fees, comply with strict government safety and operational regulations and Uber drivers do not undergo stringent background checks. For now, it seems the winds are blowing in the taxi industry’s favour as they vow to continue protesting and lobbying the government to keep Uber and other ride-sharing services. Uber and similar services continue to operate despite being deemed ‘illegal’ and ongoing crackdown — it seems Uber won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
Let us know your thoughts on Uber’s new challenge by tagging us #lawpath or @lawpath.