WA Uber cop won't save taxis
The WA Government could appoint a new taxi industry regulator to oversee services including Uber, but has warned that plated taxi drivers may struggle to fight innovation.
Transport Minister Dean Nalder has unveiled a long-awaited green paper on taxi reform, which suggests a new industry cop combined with beefed-up powers and penalties as a measure to keep all players in line.
While taxi plate-owners complain that their investments have been de-valued by ride-sharing services like Uber X, Mr Nalder says it is not the Government’s job to shield them from innovation.
“While it is recognised that taxi plate investors have purchased plates in good faith, the economic value of a business should be based on a superior customer proposition rather than the scarcity of supply or government regulation,” the Minister’s foreword says.
Among the suggestions is a call for plate-owners to have the cost of a new Annual Licence Vehicle (ALV) regime waived, so that they can provide “higher quality services at a lower cost”.
The discussion paper also recommends meters be phased out for all but hailed rides, encouraging dispatchers to agree on fares with customers at the time of booking.
The authorities say this measure would boost transparency and restore faith lost by customers experiencing higher-than-expected fares upon arrival.
Mr Nalder said boosting competition was the goal, not just protecting taxi drivers.
He also insisted that Uber had displayed “a desire to come into a regulatory environment”, in what would be a departure from its typical modus operandi.
“There will need to be a regulator with the appropriate tools at their disposal,” the paper reads.
“With the increasing use of telecommunications technology that allows for non-compliance on a large scale, the regulator will need stronger powers and more effective penalty provisions.”
Transport Workers Union WA secretary Tim Dawson said plate-owners could be forced to take legal action, while Labor transport spokesperson Paul Papalia told News Corp that Government must compensate plate-owners for the decimation of their industry.
Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Deidre Willmott said the removal of restrictions on the number of plates and deregulation of taxi fares would be important tools in the industry’s response to new cut-price services.