ACT News

Advertisements for Uber in Canberra hit web with taxi industry review underway

Car-service Uber might be staying coy about their entry into the Canberra market, but driver recruitment advertisements for the ACT are rife on social media. 

Wanted ads promise partner drivers for Uber X in Canberra between $20 and $30 an hour and the opportunity to set their own hours. Drivers can sign up online and watch a 16 minute induction video on how Uber works.

Potential partners are required to give information about their car and driver's license.

After completing the online sign-up process, drivers are told to expect contact from Uber staff members after a "background check" is completed. 

The recruitment efforts come as ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr released the terms of reference for a review into the Canberra taxi industry.

The innovation review announced last month will consider customer service, competition and regulation in the existing taxi network, and comes as other cities deal with disruption from Uber and other ride-sharing smartphone based businesses. 

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Bureaucrats from the Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate and Justice and Community Safety Directorate will oversee the review, with written submissions from industry representatives due by Friday, February 20.

The review and subsequent discussion paper could show concerns ahead of Uber's expected arrival in Canberra, following resistance from powerful taxi lobbies and state regulators around Australia. 

Uber says it has 1100 partner drivers signing up each month nationally, and claims to have facilitated "millions" of rides in Australia. 

The company is already operating in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, the Gold Coast and Brisbane and has more than 160,000 drivers in the United States. 

In January, a spokeswoman said Uber would consider the review and the timing of its arrival in Canberra. 

Uber's smartphone application allows users to book taxis and limousines instantly. Uber X gives any motorist - not just licensed taxi or hire-car drivers - the ability to charge for providing transport with minimal overhead costs.

Areas included in the review's terms of reference include how the entry of digital booking platforms and services could change the current taxi market place and the safety of passengers, drivers and vehicles. 

It will consider how efficient and sustainable the current supply of taxis is in Canberra, including for passengers with special needs and "synergies with other modes of public transport".  

Also set to be considered are the current surcharges for credit card payments in Canberra's taxis, compared with surcharges applied by other Australian jurisdictions, and compliance with disability laws by existing and new drivers. 

There are currently 378 taxi licenses issued in Canberra and 327 taxis active on the network.

A June 2014 report commissioned by the Canberra Taxi Industry Association to evaluate the current state of Canberra's taxis and the local industry will be considered, along with the federal government's competition policy review draft report. 

"Consultation will involve initial industry stakeholder meetings, the development of a discussion paper, and broader community engagement to commence in early to mid-2015," the terms of reference state. 

"The working group will report to government during the latter half of 2015." 

Last week Uber vice president David Plouffe said the business could create 20,000 jobs in Australia.

The former adviser to US President Barack Obama said Uber would consider handing over its internal data on trips to Australian governments in exchange for changes to regulation favourable to Uber X. 

Canberra Taxi Industry Association executive director Tony Bryce, a member of the review committee, said an action plan would be established. 

He declined to release the 2014 report, as it will be considered by officials in the review process. 

"The CTIA is not anti-competition and welcomes all innovations and technological advancement that can benefit our industry - our only wish is that all taxi service providers operate under the same set of rules and regulations, which were put in place to ensure the safety of the public," Mr Bryce said in a statement. 

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