ACT News

Uber to launch in Canberra; ACT government to cut taxi licence fees and regulate ride-sharing

Canberra's transport network is set for a major shake-up from October 30 as Uber begins local services and the ACT government moves to introduce accreditation and insurance rules for ride-sharing businesses.

Uber will launch in Canberra in October.
Uber will launch in Canberra in October. Photo: David Ramos

Uber's arrival will see major concessions to the taxi industry including cuts to license fees twice by 2017, seeing a drop from $20,000 per year to $5000. Fees charged to hire car operators will also fall.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Greens Minister Shane Rattenbury will announce the plans as part of a review of Canberra's taxi industry on Wednesday, making the ACT the first Australian jurisdiction to regulate ride-sharing.

In a two-stage process, interim arrangements will come into force from the end of next month allowing ride-sharing drivers to take smartphone application and phone bookings. Only taxis will be allowed to pick up passengers from ranks and on the street.

Criminal history and background checks will be required for anyone behind the wheel. Taxi, hire cars and ride-share vehicles will all undergo safety inspections and drivers will be subject to five-year health assessments. The government will also introduce compulsory third party and property insurance requirements for all ride-sharing cars.


After new legislation is passed, stage two will see driver accreditation requirements and taxis and ride-sharing services regulated under new transport booking services rules.

Drivers will theoretically be able to take bookings from any company, but where a service restricts drivers from taking bookings from competitors, they will be considered employees and will be covered for workers' compensation and other benefits. Some drivers who don't own their vehicle could also be covered for workers' compensation.

Some rules for taxi drivers will be scrapped, including requirements for drivers' uniforms. Restrictive training requirements be scrapped and operators will no longer have to demonstrate their capacity to meet standards and financial viability.

Uber drivers will be required to be drug and alcohol free when behind the wheel and so-called "surge pricing" will be banned during emergencies. The company apologised after raising fares by as much as four times during December's Sydney siege.

Ride-share applications will have to offer fare ranges and customer complaint mechanisms. Standard passenger privacy protections for bank and personal information will apply.

Taxi surcharges for electronic payments will be capped at  5 per cent. Passengers will be able to agree to a fare through a ride-sharing application before their trip, and requests for up-front payments and tips will be banned.

Hire car  licence fees will fall from $4600 to $100 and all transport booking services will pay a $600 application fee. Uber driver accreditation will cost $50 per person and  licence fees will cost $100 a year or $400 for five years.

Uber passengers will not be able to pay with cash until legislation is passed, likely in late 2015 or 2016. Drivers will only be able to accept cash if a security camera is installed in the car.

Uber drivers will only be able to accept passengers from booking services and cannot be hailed or stop in taxi, loading or bus zones. Drivers must also complete a training accreditation course within six months of the laws being passed.

The plans come after 40 Uber drivers in Sydney were issued suspension notices on Monday after authorities failed to prosecute drivers in court. Like others states, NSW has not regulated the ride-sharing company despite its services operating on Sydney roads since April 2014.

About 100 Canberra taxi drivers went on strike earlier this month, calling on the ACT government to introduce regulations to ensure a level-playing field.

The Canberra Taxi Industry Association has routinely called for Uber to be required to comply with the same safety rules, rates and regulations that apply to taxi drivers.

Uber claims more than 3000 Canberrans have applied to become drivers, while hundreds have attended Canberra information sessions.

Mr Rattenbury said new public transport options were important for Canberra. He said disability access will be unchanged.

"These reforms are a win for Canberrans and those travelling to the territory, improving access to diverse transport options and competitive pricing," Mr Rattenbury said.


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