Big-name investors including billionaire James Packer, SEEK co-founder Paul Bassat, fund manager David Paradice and the Prime Minister's son Alex Turnbull are backing taxi-booking app GoCatch to launch a new ride-sharing service in Australia.
The new service, GoCar, will be in a head-to-head battle with Uber for the $5.4 billion taxi market.
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Uber cuts fares by 20 per cent
Uber expects a 20 per cent cut to fares in south east Queensland will not hurt drivers because it will "bring more riders onto the platform". 7 News Queensland: 18 Feb, 2016
Disruptive ride-hailing app uberX is facing increased competition around the globe, including from Lyft in the United States, Ola in India and Didi Chuxing in China, but the Australian taxi industry is up in arms as the floodgates open and GoCatch moves to sign up drivers from its network of 35,000 taxis already registered with its booking app.
Uber rival GoCar will launch initially in Sydney, after Uber was legalised in NSW, and will require cars that are less than 10 years old. But GoCatch founder Ned Moorfield is eager to expand quickly into the ACT, which has also legalised ride-sharing services, and other states where taxi regulation is being reviewed. Reports emerged on Tuesday night the Northern Territory Government has moved to ban Uber.
Uber was finally facing a backlash by consumers over its aggressive business tactics, Mr Moorfield said.
"The fact that they are taking the ATO to court to dispute a ruling on GST, it just shows an incredible level of arrogance," he said.
The GoCar pricing matches uberX during off-peak hours but charges passengers more during morning and after-work peak hours, as well as on Friday and Saturday nights, which Mr Moorfield said was designed to avoid Uber's dreaded surge pricing.
"The key differentiator is we won't have any surge pricing, which people just hate. It is just blatant profiteering by Uber," he said.
GoCar said that for a typical 20-minute cab ride the trip would cost $32.25 with uberX and GoCar during off-peak but would be locked in at $47.09 with GoCar during peak hours – avoiding surge pricing – whereas the ride in a taxi during peak hour would cost $55.41.
GoCar, which is also backed by the Liberman family, venture capitalist Markus Kahlbetzer and Airtasker founder Tim Fung, will also use a simple thumbs up or thumbs down rating system rather than a five-star rating. "What is a two-star versus a four-star rating? Generally you either have a good experience or you don't," Mr Moorfield said.
"We are getting a lot of drivers coming through with pretty new SUVs, so there will be quite a few SUVs on our platform," he said. "One thing is we will absolutely not tolerate drivers talking on the phone when passengers are in the vehicle with them, so we will remove drivers if we receive complaints about that."
The Australian taxi industry is already up in arms over the latest Uber rival, as it watches the value of taxi licences being destroyed.
The key differentiator is we won't have any surge pricing, which people just hate. It is just blatant profiteering by Uber.GoCatch founder Ned Moorfield
"Unregulated ride-sharing floodgates have opened, thanks to stupid governments," one licence holder posted on the Taxi Drivers Australia Facebook page.
So does uberX know that GoCar is coming for it?
"I'm pretty sure that on one of our first days on-boarding, one of Uber's staff came in and pretended to be a driver but that's business," Mr Moorfield said.