Yesterday, December 4th, the Melbourne Magistrates Court charged an Uber driver with driving a hire car without a commercial licence or registration. A driver, who works for Uber, was charged because he was operating without a commercial licence and registration allowing you to ‘taxi’ people around. Hmm, sounds like there’s a problem here.
Twelve drivers are set to be charged with this so-called offence after they were ‘caught’ in 2014 by an undercover operation conducted by the Taxi Service Commission. If 12 drivers are being charged with this offence, this means all drivers must be ‘guilty’ of this offence, making the Uber service technically illegal in Victoria. Though it has been legalised in the ACT, this decision seems to have screwed up the system a bit.
Uber is a ride sharing service. This means that you are sharing your ride with another person–in Uber’s case, the driver. You find this driver through the Uber app, in which you set your pick up and drop off location, and an Uber driver can pick you up and take you where you need to go. However, it is entirely voluntary based. Uber drivers are not required to pick you up. They are not obliged to chauffer you around, and thus are not technically transportation provider.
There’s been a lot of controversy over the Uber service since it launched in Australia back in October, 2012. Taxi drivers, protesters and anti-uber people have complained that they are not regulated, have zero upfront costs, and don’t require a commercial licence to operate what–at face value–looks like a transportation providing service. All of these are true. However, Uber isn’t required by law to be regulated, as they are not technically a transport provider, and this is causing an uproar for laws to be changed.
I want to throw in my two cents worth. For the record, I’m an Uber rider in Melbourne, but rarely. I typically walk where I need to go, but if I need to get somewhere, and I can’t figure out the tram network (which is almost always) then I’ll grab an Uber. There’s only one major reason for this. I’m a technology person. I like living in the 22nd century. Uber is as simple as pulling out my phone, opening the app, setting my pick up and drop off location and hitting request. Within seconds I’ll get an Uber driver’s name, photo, car type, rego number and star rating. And they’ll pick me up. Incredibly simple. After the ride, I simply hop out. I don’t have to sit there waiting to pay. The app has my payment information and my card is charged. Again, incredibly simple. I can then rate the driver 1-5 stars, and I get a full record of my trip. A map with the route taken, the pick up and drop off time, and a comprehensive receipt breaking down all the costs. But the best thing… 9 times out of 10 it’s cheaper than a taxi.
I love Uber because it’s easy and simple to use. The drivers are also heavily regulated within the company itself. The cars are always spotless, the drivers are local to the city, so they always know where to go (they do have a GPS anyway if they need it) and the drivers are rated by the passengers. If their rating drops below 3 stars, Uber investigates. This is an incentive for the drivers to stay at the top of their game. You also have the opportunity to share a coupon code (Mine is ubernickj). When someone signs up for Uber and rides for the first time, they get $10 credit on their account, and I get $10 credit. To date, I have never paid for an Uber ride. I love it.
Below is a snippet of the Uber Driver Training Video. This’ll give you some insight into how the service works. It does go for eight minutes so if you’re genuinely interested, it’s well worth the watch.