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Melbourne Uber Drivers Slapped With $1700 Fines; Service Shuts Down 255

Posted by timothy
from the permission-is-mandatory dept.
beaverdownunder (1822050) writes "Victoria Australia's Taxi Directorate has begun a crackdown on Melbourne Uber drivers, fining them $1700 each for operating a taxi service illegally, with total fines apparently equalling over $50000. In response, Uber has shut down its Melbourne service, and has refused to comment on whether its drivers will be compensated, since Uber told them they were providing a legal service. (Fined Uber drivers could take the company to the state's consumer tribunal: stay tuned!) Uber is set to meet with the Directorate next week but it is likely the demands the Directorate will place on Uber drivers, such as mandatory criminal record checks, vehicle inspections and insurance, will make the service in Melbourne unviable. Meanwhile, the New South Wales government is awaiting a report to determine if Uber drivers operating in that state are doing so illegally, warning that drivers could face substantial fines if they are found to have been operating in breach of the law. In South Australia, it doesn't even appear Uber will get off the ground — the state has made it clear that those who operate as an Uber driver will be driving without being covered by the state's mandatory insurance coverage, essentially de-registering their vehicle and making them liable for fines and license suspension."
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Melbourne Uber Drivers Slapped With $1700 Fines; Service Shuts Down

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  • Re:Death sentence (Score:5, Informative)

    by putaro (235078) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @09:50AM (#46948607) Journal

    Uber has different levels of service. This appears to be a crackdown on "UberX" which lets anyone drive for extra cash. There's also "Black Car" which uses limousine services (i.e. "Town Cars") which are licensed and insured. That probably remains legal unless there is some problem with them picking up fares anywhere.

    We used Uber Black Car and regular taxis in San Francisco recently. San Francisco taxis have really gone to the dogs - we had one driver who did nothing except talk on the phone and swerved in and out of traffic. The limo drivers were much nicer, the cars were nicer and the price was about the same.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @10:01AM (#46948687) Homepage
    Uber seems like a libertarian scam at best. You have an unlicensed, unregulated cab service with unverified and wildly variant service levels. Compounding the issue further, youre faced with an entity that assumes the 'fare' it pays you is commensurate enough to ensure your maintenance, upkeep, and fuel costs. While it might be true for a 13 year old crown victoria, Im willing to guess the fare earned for a jaunt across town in some strangers Benz doesnt begin to cover ceramic brakes and ferromagnetic suspension work.

    There is literally nothing in the contract agreements for Uber or even at the government regulatory level that would prevent what essentially amounts to 4chan on wheels from picking you up, driving you to the middle of nowhere, and kicking you out covered in mustard without saying a word. If you lost your phone or wallet in the car, no ones beholden to return it. The automobile provided might even be some dukes of hazard two seater with a supercharger, no seatbelts, and a dead hooker in the trunk and this is all perfectly acceptable based on the terms you agreed to with Uber. And the worst part is that protective measures like a commercial drives license simply dont exist. Your driver could be a meth-addled convict with a bottle of jagermeister between his legs, but since he never had to go through a background check or a drug test or even a physical, the hook he uses to steer the car between epileptic bouts of withdrawal is in Ubers understanding a sterling example of a world class taxi service without the hassle of icky cabs. When he wraps the front end of his 1971 plymouth duster with the missing front brake around a utility pole, nothing in his insurance (should he care to buy some) is required to cover any part of you the paramedics collect from the street as they hustle you to the ER.
  • Re:A Solution (Score:4, Informative)

    by GameMaster (148118) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @10:05AM (#46948715)

    What in the world makes you think a criminal background check isn't relevant? You want convicted sexual predators driving taxis around? How about people that have been convicted of fraud? You want them being responsible for operating the meter in an honest manner? There are enough issues with slimy/fraudulent practices in taxis services as it is, now you want to do away with the criminal background checks entirely? You're nuts.

    Also, you seem to have completely ignored the third issue at stake here: insurance. Personal auto insurance != commercial auto insurance. The moment your insurance company finds out you were driving people around for profit at the time of your accident they will, completely legitimately, refuse to pay out any claims. While it's completely fine that you don't get paid after committing insurance fraud (which IS what you're doing when you violate your CLEARLY WRITTEN insurance contract to drive for profit) the important thing here is that anyone you've hurt (such as your fares and/or whatever/whoever you hit) are now left with no way to be compensated unless they can squeeze the money out of you. Since it's unlikely that people like Warren Buffet or Donald Trump are going to be Ubering in their Bentley, this means that those people are almost certainly screwed.

  • Re:Death sentence (Score:5, Informative)

    by ChunderDownunder (709234) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @10:08AM (#46948747)

    Taxis in Victoria are regulated where each vehicle is licensed by paying tens of thousands of dollars to the state government.

    In such an industry, freelancers won't be tolerated.

  • Re:Death sentence (Score:5, Informative)

    by Roblimo (357) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @03:56PM (#46952859) Homepage Journal

    I don't know about you, but my car insurance policy (from The Hartford, through AARP) specifically states that it does *not* cover for-hire car use. Read your policy, and I expect it says something similar. When I had my limo service (note my Slashdot nickname) I had commercial insurance, and a minimum of $1 million instead of the $20,000 a cab was required to have. That $1 million policy cost me a lot less than a cab policy, because owner-operated limos are about the safest form of ground transport there is.

    And when there are fines to be paid, Uber shows its true colors as it acts like the lowest form of taxi company and puts it all on the driver. I remember that bullshit from when I drove a cab in Baltimore.

    The funny thing is, I think Uber is going to be very good for the livery car industry. When I started Robin's Limousine, Boston Coach was working hard to build their Baltimore operation. Customers asked me if I wasn't scared of them and their marketing muscle. "No," I said. "They're doing my marketing for me by selling the idea of a non-cab luxury transport service. All I have to do is be a little bit better and little cheaper, and I'll have the coolest customers. Like you. I notice you're riding with me and not Boston Coach."

    I had a few friends, each with their own livery car or limo, and we covered for each other. The rule of the limo biz is that if you only have 2 customers, it won't be long before both of them need you at the same time, so you'd better team up with other reliable drivers.

    One thing we did, by consensus, was *always* pop a small strip of red carpet for passengers getting in or leaving. That was quite the deal for proms and weddings, but we did it for transport jobs, too. George Clinton (the P-Funk dude) one told me that even though we charged less than most of our competition, he'd pay us extra (and believe me, he was a heavy tipper) because we were better at helping him make an entrance than any other limo company, ever.

    If I hadn't moved off into writing (the limo company was taken over by my friend Charles, who still runs it), I might or might not join Uber today. But probably not. Once cell phones started giving you the first minute on incoming calls for free, I was cool on my own -- really in partnership with Charles. See, you called anyone else and you got an operator.flunky. Call us, and you got a boss. People like that. :)

     

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig. -- Lazarus Long, "Time Enough for Love"

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