Uber travel tested

In the interests of giving something new a go, it’s time to get Ubered.

I love the idea of Uber, but have always shied away from giving it a try. However, in the interests of giving something new a go, I thought it was time to get Ubered.

I imagine everyone’s heard of Uber but just in case you’ve got no idea what I’m talking about, let me explain.

Uber is a collection of owner/operator drivers, who all work independently, using their own car to provide a taxi service. Uber operates via an app, through which you book and pay for your ride, as well as rating your driver and, your driver can rate you.

The app can be downloaded free of charge. You have to link a credit card or Paypal account for payment, so it’s not generally something you can do on the spur of the moment. Once you’re registered, however, you’re good to go, and go I did.

Kaye and I had a work function so we decided this was the perfect time to get Ubering. We input our address and destination, choose to be given an estimate of the fare and hit go. Almost immediately we were told that our driver Rob was heading our way, as well as what car he was driving and the registration.

Through the app we can track exactly where Rob is and sure enough, he’s bang on time.

Surprisingly, the car is quite new and clean, not something you would say for most taxis you jump in. Rob introduces himself and when we explain this is our first Uber, he’s only too happy to explain how it all works.

Rob is in his fifties and currently looking for work. With a background in the automotive industry, he’s not finding it easy but thanks to Uber, he can be flexible for interviews as well as being able to earn some money. When Rob is free to work, he simply opens the app and sees which jobs are available. This is possibly why his car is so clean as he tells us he refuses to do the after pub and club run home.

When we reach our destination, our card is charged, receipt is received by email and we’re asked to rate our driver – Rob has an overall rating of 4.7 out of five and we certainly can’t argue with that.

But will our return trip be as successful?

Manish is there as promised as we departed the venue and what a cheery chap he is. Getting married in a few weeks time, Manish is a development engineer but is working some shifts to earn extra money to pay for his intimate, but still expensive wedding. He’s more than happy to share with us the words of wisdom given to him by his mother on marriage – respect your wife, trust your wife and remember that she’s the boss!

Clearly excited about the prospect of marrying his Irish girlfriend, he rejects Kaye’s offer of my hand in marriage as payment for the fare – thank goodness for all concerned.

As he drops us off, he’s incredibly reluctant to take the tip we’re more than happy to leave, and now I know why – there is no need to tip an Uber driver.

With fares that are generally lower than those of your traditional taxis, no tipping and no Cabcharge fee to rip you off, Uber makes financial sense.

And with a snapshot of people’s lives thrown in for free, I can honestly say I’m converted.

Find out more about Uber as a potential driver or customer.





    COMMENTS

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    B5YCK
    14th Nov 2015
    9:50am
    Debbie and Kaye, do you realise that by using Uber which is an illegal operator, you did a licensed taxi driver out of a job? The Taxi industry is highly regulated by the various States. The driver/operator pay a huge amount of insurance so the passenger in case of an accident is protected, they have to add GST for each trip and out of their low income have to pay tax. The taxi itself has to undergo frequent rigorous safety checks and the driver him or herself has to be a registered taxi driver with the State where he or she operates. Uber ignores all this and is underminig a legal operator and effects many thousands of honest people who obey the law being the owner or the driver. Very many retired people have invested their savings in a taxi plate which gives them an income in their old age. In most countries around the world, uber is banned from operating as they have no regard for the law. Safety is most important and the Taxi industry provides this.
    Kaye and Debbie consider all this before you do an honest taxi driver out of a job.
    Adrianus
    14th Nov 2015
    10:07am
    If it were illegal then why is Bill Shorten promoting it as a prime example of the type of innovation we will expect from a Labor Government? Is Bill Shorten wrong?
    Anonymous
    14th Nov 2015
    10:42am
    Never has been he has never made a decision
    Gra
    14th Nov 2015
    2:18pm
    That just goes to show how out of touch and what a fool Shorten is. Uber is an illegal operation which not only does taxi drivers and taxi companies out of work but also feed money into Google who reap enormous profits but don't pay one cent in tax.Not only does Google rip off the Australian government, it also rips off the Uber drivers who only get a small percentage of the fares they earn.
    Richied
    14th Nov 2015
    2:58pm
    Robbo, your comments don't make it clear that UberX is illegal, not Uber. Uber Taxi, Black and Lux are not illegal and are fully registered, regulated and insured.

    Oh, and if Mr Shorten is out of touch, then what say you about Mr Turnbull's comments in May and September when he praised Uber (and AirBnB and others) as great 'agile' companies?

    It beggars belief that you think that Uber's operation feeds money into Google. How did you make that leap of logic?

    Also, you say Uber 'rips off' their drivers - I hope you realise that a major percentage of taxi fares goes to a) the taxi plate owner (who is probably paying off the loan for the overpriced plate) and the taxi company. The driver gets a small percentage of the fares charged.
    Richied
    14th Nov 2015
    10:37am
    With all due respect Bsyck, your are not telling the full story.

    I preface my comments by saying I have absolutely no commercial interest in Uber, or GoCatch, on OnTap or any other alternative taxi service.

    Uber comes in a number of "flavours". Your comments are mostly correct, but ONLY for UberX.

    UberX is where private individuals use private cars. In most places in Australia (I think ACT has announced it will now allow these), this service is currently illegal, and their private vehicle insurance would not cover passengers in the event of an accident. Uber does criminal checks on the drivers, and there is added security that the 'contract' between driver and passenger is recorded and the journey tracked so you're less likely to have any problems than if you simply hailed an anonymous cab in the street. Having said that, I personally do not condone the use of UberX because it doesn't (currently) have the same regulatory controls as full taxi service.

    But (at least) NSW and Victoria are now working to determine the requirements for regulating this alternative industry, and I think it should be encouraged (with the right checks and balances).

    Now, I said that's only part of the story. the rest of the Uber story is far away more positive, and I am a strong supporter.

    As I said, Uber has many flavours - Uberx (the illegal one) is the cheapest and far cheaper than taxis.

    The next level up is Uber Taxi. These are fully regulated cabs (the look like cabs, have cab plates, are driven by fully trained and registered taxi drivers). In my opinion, these are much better than a cab that does not use Uber, for three main reasons. Firstly, they are cheaper if you use a credit card. A 'normal' cab charges 5% surcharge on credit card transactions (recently regulated down from the incredibly greedy 10% cabcharge) - that's still higher than the cost of processing the credit card charge. Secondly, you are guaranteed a cab and a driver that passengers have voted as being of good quality - this is done through a rating system, where passengers rate each journey and Uber reacts swiftly against cabs or drivers that regularly rate 3 out of 5 or lower, or where a passenger registers a strong complaint. Cabs that do not use Uber (or GoCatch or similar) have no rating system, and there's generally no action by the cab company for a cab that offers a substandard service. Thirdly, there is no booking fee. So booking a 'normal' cab using Uber (or GoCatch or similar service) means you'll get a cheaper taxi that will almost certainly be higher quality than one that doesn't user those services. Oh, and with the added bonus that your money still goes to the taxi plate owners and the tax drivers. One other thing - you can order accessibility vehicles through Uber (and I believe GoCatch), as you can through 'normal' channels.

    There are other flavours of Uber, which you'd probably want to use only on special occasions - Uber Black (black 'town' cars, like Statemans) and Uber Lux (high end limousines).
    Richied
    14th Nov 2015
    10:40am
    Oh, I forget to add, Uber (using taxis), Uber Black and Uber Lux are all fully regulated, fully licenses, and fully legal.
    Gra
    14th Nov 2015
    2:22pm
    The fact remains that all these Uber whatever are controlled by Google and they do not pay one cent in tax to our government. All they have done is tap into a lucrative market where people have opted to use Uber instead of a regular taxi. Google proceeds to con people into becoming Uber drivers and then proceeds to rip them off.
    Richied
    14th Nov 2015
    3:12pm
    Uber sought and received funding from a range of large venture capitalists, including some from Google Ventures and Microsoft, but more from Baidu (a Chinese search engine). If anything, Uber is 'controlled' by Baidu. However most venture capitalists don't usually have operational control of the companies they invest in.

    Uber, like most multinationals (including Rio Tinto and BHP) juggle their finances to minimise tax which means they push their revenues to countries with low taxes. I don't condone that at all, but every large international and local company does it.
    Denis & Narelle
    14th Nov 2015
    10:58am
    Isn't it great to know that a person in a responsible position such as Debbie is in, being able to influence other people with their views and so called facts, has no hesitation in recommending to one and all, an ILLEGAL operation (unless at the present time you live in the ACT) that is avoiding its responsibilities in respect to everything from ensuring safe passage of its clients to paying tax, as other Australian citizens and companies are required to do.
    I would suggest Debbie that before you come out and publish totally one sided articles, you do some research on the total subject.
    You comment that the Uber driver drove a clean car but admitted he would not pick up the after pub crowd. Great. Leave that work to the good old taxis so that you can continue to criticise their standards. You say that Uber fares are generally lower than traditionally taxi fares. Do you stop to think why??? Obviously not. For a start the fares are lower because Uber does not impose GST as taxis are REQUIRED BY LAW to do, so there is an immediate saving of 10%. Taxis are very highly regulated, REQUIRED BY LAW to be a member of a taxi network (approx. $1,000/month fees) and have costly security equipment, secured meter, lights and computer fitted, all at the owners expense. The vehicles are inspected at least 3 times a year very comprehensively (not just a test on lights and horn), owners are charged very high CPT (green slip, 3rd party) insurance rates because it is a taxi, are required to pay Workers Compensation for their drivers and pay those drivers at least union award rates. UBER drivers incur none of those costs.
    You comment there is no need to tip an Uber driver and no Cabcharge fee to rip you off. As far as I am aware there is no requirement that you have to tip a taxi driver either and there is only a fee imposed by Cabcharge if you choose to pay by credit card. No taxi driver can force you to use a credit card so if you object to a credit card fee, pay by cash. I haven't read an article by Debbie criticising Jetstar or Qantas or any other large organisation about their even higher credit card charges.
    Because of the previous regulated nature of the taxi industry to this point in time, taxi plates were issued by the State or Territory governments. They were not handed out free. They were either sold or auctioned off at very substantial prices. Again no such cost to the Uber driver.
    Taxis are required to be on the road as much as possible, preferably 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If they are not and complaints are made about the lack of available taxis, the policy of governments has always been to issue more plates in the area concerned. The government appears to be solving the problem but at the same time, rakes in considerable amounts of money through the sale or auction of the plates. As the governments always actually own the plates, they can be taken off an owner at any time if the regulations are not being adhered to by the taxi owner, who in actual fact is really only a leasee of a government owned asset. And finally, to talk about high taxi fees as if they are result of greedy taxi operators, as so many other journalists have written over the past few months, is a load of nonsense. Taxi fares are set by the government, in fact by IPART, after a rigorous investigation of operating costs. In Victoria, I believe taxi fares were not increased in recent years by the government for 3 years. Keep that in mind also when comments are made about the lack of current Australian, English speaking taxi drivers.
    Compare that to the Uber model where they can impose surge pricing if there are circumstances they consider warrant having to entice more of their drivers onto the road e.g. New Years Eve, very bad weather, the siege in the city of Sydney during which any fare in the CBD cost a set fee of $100.
    So Debbie, all your problems with taxis can really be traced back to government regulation. But unfortunately bureaucrats are like you - never had personal experience in the taxi industry, really have no idea of the true costs involved and like to jump aboard a modern trend with no consideration of the affect on some peoples lives, who have run a business for many years, at the same time complying with the law of the land in the running of that business. But today people are only too happy to back a business that is overseas owned, does all it can to pay as little tax as possible in Australia, does not compete on a level playing field with local operators, takes court action to try to ensure its operatives don't pay proper tax so giving them a distinct advantage in the market place, at the same time depriving the state governments of a previously good source of income.
    All I can say is good luck using Uber and hope that you don't need to use Uber at any of their so called "busy" times, and that you are not involved in an accident whilst traveling with an Uber driver as there has been plenty of publicity overseas regarding the attitude of Uber when a driver is involved in an accident. Uber denies any responsibility, (we are only a booking service they say) so the responsibility falls on the driver who it has to be hoped, has declared to his insurance company that he is using his private vehicle as a business.
    B5YCK
    14th Nov 2015
    11:32am
    Very well said. Better than my poor contribution.
    Richied
    14th Nov 2015
    11:48am
    Denis and Nicole.

    Alas, your statements are also based on incorrect (or out of date) information. Your seem also to confuse your arguments (attacking Uber for taking money from taxi drivers, yet arguing against Uber initiatives that increase driver incomes).

    Number 1 - the original article talked about Uber (not UberX). It is UberX that is dodgy.

    Number 2 - you mention that Uber doesn't pay GST. In fact, as of August it does. And the reason it didn't till then was not because it was breaking the law - it was waiting for a ruling by the ATO. This ruling was not only looking into Uber - AirBnB was also being looked at.

    Number 3 - you attack the statement that the Uber driver said they wouldn't pick up the pub crowd. I caught a cab on Tuesday evening (flagged down, not through any app) and when I commented how clean the cab was, the driver mentioned he was selective as to who he picked up - he wouldn't pick up anyone who looked dodgy or looked drunk (ie. the pub crowd). So it's not just Uber drivers who won't touch the pub crowd.

    Number 4 - you trivialise the FACT that indeed it is more expensive to catch a cab if you use a credit card. Of course you aren't forced to pay a cab with a credit card, but paying by credit card at the same price as if you paid cash (as you can with Uber but not a 'normal' cab) is safer and sometimes more convenient.

    Number 5 - I believe your comments about taxis being mandated to operate around the clock is a little misleading. I understand that taxi plates are issued as unrestricted or with time or location restrictions. Taxis can operate within the restrictions of those plates but are not forced to operate fully within those times. So, if a plate owner chooses not to have their cab on the road at (say) midnight on a Friday night when the pub crowd is out - even though their plate allows them - there's nothing stopping that behaviour. Any constraints on taxi numbers are a result of lobbying by Taxi Council to restrict the number of plates issued. This also has the effect of forcing up the price of the plates as they are more 'valuable'. And that in turn forces up the price of a taxi trip (a huge percentage of the taxi fare goes to the plate owner, not the driver). Taxi plate 'value' is artificial, and alas those people who 'invested' in plates as part of their superannuation took a risk that the artificial value based on restrictive regulation would continue. The real value of the plates should be based on how much revenue they general, and not rely so highly on the artificial price they could be onsold for (this is actually Investment 101).

    Number 6 - most of your comments are focused on UberX. All other Uber services (Uber Taxi, Uber Black, Uber Luc) are fully regulated, fully licensed, fully insured, fully legal.

    Number 7 - you mention that Uber charges surge pricing, but not on all its services. That is true - pure supply and demand (however I don't believe surge pricing is applied to Uber Taxi, only to UberX - the illegal service - and Uber Black/Uber Lux). Have you considered that the taxi industry has imposed pricing that has no relation to supply and demand? Why should I pay nearly 100% more for flag fall and 20% more for distance/time after 10pm each night? Taxi plate owners charge drivers more to use the taxis during peak periods (ie. charging supply and demand) but the different tariffs are time-related not remand-related.

    Number 8 - you erroneously state that Uber charged $100 extra during the siege of Sydney. Two facts: First the surge price went up to 4 times the usual fare so if your usual fare was $10, the surge price would have been $40. Secondly their automated surge pricing system did indeed immediately increase fares dramatically initially, however as soon as it hit the news, Uber not only turned off their surge pricing algorithm, but fully refunded fares out of the city that day. Oh, and remember, surge pricing is used to encourage drivers to pick up fares - the drivers get the boosted income (if indeed you are on the side of the drivers, you'd be applauding this). And another thing, Uber hasn't set this precedent - the taxi industry did. The first time Sydney taxis used surge pricing was (I believe) NYE 2000 where fares surged to 100% greater than the usual tariff (Uber's Sydney seige surge peaked at 200%).

    Number 9 - you mention that all issues can be traced back to government regulation. On face value, that is correct. However, the Taxi Council is an enormously strong lobby group and has, for the past 20 or so years, pretty much set government regulation. Cabcharge (where up until relatively recently, cabs weren't allowed to use other credit card services), those plastic protectors around drivers (now removed), regulation to get rid of taxis older than 4 years, cabs (in Sydney) until relatively recently not permitted to take bookings except through a taxi company booking service (ie. they couldn't give out their mobile number) etc - are all regulations not to help the public or drivers but to increase the coffers of those who run Taxi Council and taxi company owners and their families.
    Gra
    14th Nov 2015
    2:27pm
    I'm beginning to suspect Richied is either a Google employee or a Uber operator.
    Adrianus
    14th Nov 2015
    2:57pm
    Or maybe connected to Shorten's office? ha ha ha!
    Richied
    14th Nov 2015
    3:17pm
    :-)

    No, no and no.

    I don't work for Google or Uber and any company remotely related to them.

    I'm a swing voter (I think Mr Turnbull is a great prime minister - even if he is also a strong advocate for Uber and AirBnB and other 'agile' companies (his words).

    I researched Uber before I used the service (I don't like supporting unethical or illegal operations - so although I now use Uber and other ride sharing services, I won't use UberX until it's properly regulated and legal).
    Richied
    14th Nov 2015
    3:17pm
    :-)

    No, no and no.

    I don't work for Google or Uber and any company remotely related to them.

    I'm a swing voter (I think Mr Turnbull is a great prime minister - even if he is also a strong advocate for Uber and AirBnB and other 'agile' companies (his words).

    I researched Uber before I used the service (I don't like supporting unethical or illegal operations - so although I now use Uber and other ride sharing services, I won't use UberX until it's properly regulated and legal).
    Denis & Narelle
    14th Nov 2015
    4:16pm
    Alas Richied, you immediately show your lack of credibility by beginning your reply with Denis and Nicole. Who is Nicole??? So much for accuracy and fact of all details in your reply. Who is confused???
    In reply NUMBER 1 - Nowhere in the original article does the author state that she used Uber Taxi, Uber Black, Uber Lux. I am willing to bet she used UberX as do the great majority of customers have who used the Uber service and happily commend it. So yes, my comments were directed at UberX. I have no problem with competition in the taxi industry if all participants operate on a level playing field, i.e. drivers are fully licensed, operators comply with current Public Transport regulations that each State/Territory government introduced, years ago, which have not to date been repealed, etc. I am glad that you acknowledge that UberX is dodgy, my point exactly.
    NUMBER 2 - The ATO advised in May that GST should be charged by Uber drivers. They evidently gave a period of grace for the company to introduce the system by August. Uber disagreed and continues to do so, lodging High Court action to fight that decision, stating that their drivers don't have to charge GST as they do not earn above $70,000 year. Compare that to all the other businesses that provide a service and are obliged to charge GST. Compare that to ALL taxi drivers who in 2000 were obliged to register for an ABN and to charge GST, and fulfil all the reporting requirements of lodging BAS each quarter etc. I have never earned $70,000 year from taxi driving but I have had to lodge and pay GST collected for the past 15 years. Uber says that the reporting conditions alone would make it uneconomic for their drivers to comply. Why should there be a difference between Uber drivers and taxi drivers???
    NUMBER 3 - taxi drivers, under the regulations, have an obligation to pick up all passengers except if they are obviously badly affected by alcohol or are likely to soil the cab. Uber drivers on the other hand, can cherry pick who they pick up and the times they work, with no regulation. Taxis are an integral part of the public transport system and are obliged to provide a level of service, satisfactory to the government regulators. Yes, common sense and self preservation comes into this at times and so taxi drivers do avoid some passengers. If the cab is soiled or damaged, it is the driver and owner who are out of pocket, nobody else contributes. But I can assure you, a taxi driver or operator is not going to be a success in the business if they don't pick up the pub crowd, especially on Friday/Saturday nights, early Saturday/Sunday mornings. There is just not enough other customers to provide sufficient income for full-time employment. My point is, if the Uber business flourishes and that results in less taxis on the road because of reduced business, who is going to cater for the pub crowd??? Then of course criticism will be levelled, as it always is, at the taxi industry for not enough cabs on the road. Uber will not be criticised for the lack of their drivers.
    NUMBER 4 - I did not trivialise the use of credit cards as payments. I was responding to the rather sarcastic comment of Debbie in respect to the Cabcharge rip-off and your "greedy" comment, simply pointing out the fee is only charged to those who choose to pay by that method, and imposed in a similar fashion to that of many other businesses (it also is very strange that Cabcharge was recently very heavily fined over its c/c fees when other organisations still continue to charge exorbitant fees).
    NUMBER 5 - see item 3 above. However your comment that it has been the Taxi Council that has constrained the issue of taxi plates, thus pushing their value higher resulting in higher fares, is quite ludicrous. It is a pity you did not, years ago, give a lesson in Investment 101 to the government authorities WHO SET the sale and auction prices for taxi plates. As I pointed out in my previous post, it has been the State/Territory governments who not only set taxi fares, but have collected the very high prices they have been charging for new taxi plates, that correctly, has helped push taxi fares to higher levels. But you and other uninformed commentators do not acknowledge that fact, simply blaming the taxi industry for taxi fares. I can only speak so far as NSW is concerned but the NSW Taxi Council has advocated over the years for reduced additional plates to be issued, not to bump up fares but to provide a reasonable living for the authorised taxi drivers.
    NUMBER 6 - see my comments in 1.
    NUMBER 7 - Again your reading of my article has been very careless. I did not say that Uber charged $100 EXTRA during the Sydney siege. I said the set fare was $100. I, evidently, was not the only one to "erroneously" state that. As I don't live in Sydney I was not personally involved, but it was widely reported in the media that that is what happened. Again, my point missed by you, was that that situation could not have happened with the authorised taxis as the fares are set by the government and the meter is set to reflect those fares. Big of Uber wasn't it, to make refunds (if what you say is true) after DRAMATICALLY (your word) increasing fares. Again, your lack of knowledge of the taxi industry is obvious, not so evidently your knowledge of Uber. The taxi industry did not set the precedent of increased fares at certain times. The State government did. So far as NYE 2000 is concerned, you are wrong again. The surcharge that was applied on that occasion was set by the government and was $5 a trip extra on top of the normal fare. I know, I drove that night. If drivers charge above the set fare, at any time, they are committing an offence and should be reported to the authorities.
    NUMBER 9 - thank you that you agree, to a degree, that the issues can be traced back to government regulation. However again it is erroneous on your part, and in fact ludicrous, to state that the Taxi Council "has pretty much set government regulation". The Taxi Council is in constant battle with Transport NSW (and before that the Roads and Traffic Authority) over many aspects of the government regulations, IMPOSED on the industry, not fought for. The plastic driver protectors and the regulations to limit a cars life to 6 years, (not 4 years as you incorrectly state) were IMPOSED on the industry and drafted into the regulations and laws, at the sole decision of the government authority, not requested by the Taxi Council. In fact the plastic screens were so detested by almost everyone in the taxi industry that their compulsory introduction caused protests to be held and much angst to drivers. The government finally relented and changed the regulations to provide a choice for owners and drivers to fit a costly security camera or a screen. Everyone went for the camera, again at considerable cost to the plate owner BUT AT THE BEHEST OF THE GOVERNMENT. Similarly, the vehicle life and uniform regs. were introduced, BY THE GOVERNMENT, supposedly to provide a better service to the public, and again at considerable cost to the operators and industry overall. So yes, I do lay a very large part of the blame at the feet of the bureaucrats and politicians for current taxi fares (which incidentally are no more higher than in many other cities of the world).
    MY FINAL WORD - before making comments that my "statements are based on incorrect or out of date information", please ensure that the information you report is accurate. So far as your opinion that I am confused about any aspect of this discussion, I can assure you that I am not confused about any business that operates outside the law and also enjoys substantial benefits that are not enjoyed by their opposition. I am not against increasing any drivers income. I just want ALL drivers of public transport vehicles to be treated equally with the same opportunity to earn a good living, not one class of driver being hamstrung by authoritarian rules and regulations and the other having free reign to operate, at substantially reduced costs, in what ever manner they deem fit, even operating outside the law.
    Richied
    14th Nov 2015
    7:01pm
    My apologies Denis and Narelle. I didn't scroll up to check the names.

    I continue to agree with everyone that UberX shouldn't be used, until it is properly regulated (ie. until it is no longer illegal).

    Given that the author of the article used Uber (and not UberX), I naturally assumed that meant they'd used an Uber taxi (Uber is clear on the differentiation). If indeed the author used UberX, perhaps they should have specified that.

    Most of my comments are aimed at trying to differentiate between Uber and UberX. Almost everyone attacking the article or Uber have not shown that differentiation.

    With the exception of UberX, all other Uber services DO operate on a level playing field. The only difference between an Uber Taxi and a 'normal' taxi is the method people use to order it. They are fully licensed, fully regulated, fully insured and operate under exactly the same rules as each other.

    With regards number 2, Uber is arguing that the drivers, who are operating the business should not pay GST if their income is below $70k (I thought it was $75k, but I'll use your numbers). This aligns with the current ATO ruling for small businesses. So the appeal is whether it is Uber or the driver who is contracting the service to the customer. Note that the August ruling also included statements that AirBnB didn't have to pay GST because the contract was between the property owner and the customer - and it is this apparent discrepancy that has given weight to Uber's position.

    With regards number 3, there's also a bit of confusion in that there's a comparison on taxis and Uber (did you mean UberX?). As I've said in every one of my comments, UberX is illegal, and I'll stand by everyone to say they shouldn't be allowed. But since you've used the term Uber - an Uber taxi is EXACTLY the same as a 'normal' taxi - operating under EXACTLY the same rules and regulations. A taxi is not obligated to pick up whoever flags them down - they are only obligated to pick up if they are showing as vacant (ie. for hire). Living close to the city I can confirm that the majority of taxis driving near drinking hotspots late at night have their vacancy light turned off, so they can cherry pick passengers.

    The statement "and the times they work" implies Uber taxis pick the time they want, but 'normal' taxis don't have that flexibility. There is no regulation or obligation that forces any taxi to operate at any time. Regulations actually do the opposite - they can restrict taxis times of operation based on the type of taxi plate (eg. standby taxi plates).

    Of course taxi drivers (and Uber taxi drivers) cherry pick, because they don't want to have their cars soiled or damaged. The risk is mitigated for them though, in that there is a standard regulated charge the customer can be made to pay to compensate for cleaning and loss of income while cleaning. Note that isn't available to UberX (not that I'm worried, I don't use them :-) ).

    In NSW, IPART's February 2015 report (available on the IPART website) made it clear that the restrictions to new licenses (ie taxi plates) prior to 2009 were the primary reason why licenses had become so expensive, and that changes to government policy in 2009 (against the wishes of the Taxi Council) to increase the number of taxi licenses in line with population growth is one of the main drivers for reduced prices being achieved at annual license auctions. That would (in my opinion) have an adverse effect on the value of existing licenses.

    With regards number 4, my "greedy" statement was targeting the owners of Cabcharge, who were charging 10 percent for a service which was costing less than 3% (even if using an Amex card). Indeed, for many years, Cabcharge (and the larger taxi companies) strongly advised (read into that what you like) drivers against using other mobile payment machines. Two things have changed in the last few years - Cabcharge has lost its monopoly on credit card transactions (as a result of regulation) and more recently the government has enforced a cap on transaction fees to 5%. I find it interesting that after the first change, even though drivers started using other mobile payment systems that charged them 1 or 2%, they continued to charge passengers 10%.

    Re: number 5, I can only go on the submissions to IPART reviews. I've read some of the Taxi Council and Taxis Combined submissions from the last few years that imply that there are already too many taxi licenses available. Yes, the government sets the reserve price for auctions each year, and these are usually determined base don the perceived value of existing plates. Again, based on IPART's recent report, the driver for setting an auction reserve price which is near the currently-traded price is so as not to unduly undervalue existing plates (ie. they are trying to ensure the current plate owners don't lose value as a result of an auction). Plate values are going down because of the change in policy in 2009, and in the availability of other services, including (the illegal) UberX, Uber Black cars (which operate at a premium price but are totally legal), reduced cost because of competition of day hire cars (eg. Avis, Eurpocar), as well as the introduction of car-sharing services like GoGet. UberX plays a small part in the equation (and as I continue to state, I don't condone UberX). So the primary drivers for changes to cost of taxi plates is supply and demand for the plates, not government price setting.

    Re: number 7 - let's agree that we both got this wrong. Uber DID NOT charge $100 extra for a taxi fare, nor did they set a fee of $100 for a fare (news reports still available online don't support either of these positions). Uber did increase its surge pricing to 4 times the usual fare, and (as reported in the news) people were being charged $100 - being 4 times their usual $25 fare. The surge pricing is an automatic algorithm based on supply and demand, and the surge price is advertised before you make the booking. That is - customers know in advance what the surge price will be, and can make a decision whether they wish to use the service with dramatically inflated prices, or book a cab through 'normal' channels. It is unfortunate that the automated system raced ahead in emergency situations - and Uber hadn't put checks and balances into their system at that time. Their system now has checks and balances (for example, I know there was no surge pricing in Paris last night, even though demand skyrocketed). The same supply and demand surge pricing is applied by most businesses - for example, the cost of a harbour cruise on NYE can be 10 times that of a 'normal' evening, but the outrage against those companies isn't nearly as vigorous as that against Uber. On a point of order, the reference in your reply regarding $100 price should refer to 'number 8' not 'number 7' :-)

    As to NYE 2000, I caught two cabs that night (to work at 10pm, from work at 3am). Both charged twice the metered fare and stated that was the mandated fare. If indeed that wasn't regulated, I apologise - I probably still have the Cabcharge receipts in my tax files so perhaps I should report the drivers and show the evidence.

    I agree my view of the influence the Taxi Council has on government regulation is subjective - I base it only on what I have read in newspapers as I do not know anyone who works for the Taxi Council nor anyone who sets taxi policy. A friend of my parents used to own a classic Citreon taxi - kept in immaculate condition - when the rules about limiting the age of taxis came out, he asked for (and was refused) an exemption. The reasons relayed to my parents were that it has to be one size fits all, and that the fleet arrangements the taxi companies necessitated a regular turnover of vehicles. With regards the plastic driver protectors, heresay points to a relationship between the person who owned the company who made them (with an almost total monopoly) and certain people who ran the Taxi Council. All heresay, however it's interesting that it was reported that a lot of drivers didn't want them in the first place, and that the regulation to have them was dropped within a very short time (as you point out, most probably because they were hated).

    Your final comments apply of course to UberX. Uber as a company is not operating outside the law, and Uber taxis, Uber black or Uber lux do not have an unfair advantage over 'normal' taxis.

    To be clear, I'd be a very strong advocate for removal of a lot of the regulations around the taxi industry. No restriction on the number of taxi plates (ie. the number dictated purely on supply and demand), allowance of variable fares based on supply and demand (not based on time of day), shift changes to be any time.

    I'm also a strong advocate for the taxi industry to apply more creative methods to they way they operate (heck, Dominos pizza now shows you where your driver is, why don't the big taxi companies; and why don't the big taxi companies provide a rating system on their drivers/cars, then encourage those out who don't meet a quality standard - as does Uber).

    14th Nov 2015
    5:38pm
    using a cab in melbourne I can understand why uber is such a success over there, last time I used one, the driver did not speak English, was on his phone talking a foreign language, praying as he was driving, we did the same hoping to make it safely to our destination as he was all over the road, to top it off, we had to tell him how to get to our destination, which was one of the tourist's attractions in melbourne, his taxi stank as did he and he was very upset we did not give him a tip after he tried to charge us for the tollroad we never went on. after leaving the site we flagged down another taxi, who upon asking our destination told us it was to short a fare and refused to take us.
    I live in the country and as luck have it we have a local taxi service who does not refuse short fares, their car is in good condition and most of all clean and does not smell of the driver's past meals. Is it any wonder uber is a success in melbourne and surroundings?
    B5YCK
    16th Nov 2015
    11:35am
    No, I am not a cab driver. All that my wife and I did was saving for our retirement, and invested in a couple of NSW taxi plates as we did not want to be on a government hand out.
    The regulated taxi industry was what we thought then was a safe investment.
    Now at age 87 we are threatened by the appearance of uberX and the support they receive for an illegal operator who thumb their nose at the law as it stands.
    B5YCK
    15th Nov 2015
    10:10am
    After reading all the comments, I start to believe that "your life choices" has to make some money somehow and therefore is open for anyone ( under the disguise of an article by one of it's staff) to advertise.
    so this was just another one of those. Just like the one for hearing loss today. when you want to download the PDF format guide, the first thing being asked is your E mail address. Thank you but my inbox is already overloaded by plenty of unwanted e mails.
    Anonymous
    15th Nov 2015
    7:11pm
    b5yck, obliviously you are a taxi driver, I don't know where you operate from and you may be one of the old class, great drivers who knows their areas and don't try to rip the customer off, all I ask from you, fly into melbourne and use the taxis from the airport, make sure you travel at least to the city, any shorter you be refused, know where you have to go, the driver will want to know how to get there, have a peg ready to put on your nose, make sure before you stap into the cab the seat is clean, have your prayerbook ready and be ready for the ride of your life, the rolling coaster in luna park st.kilda is very tame compered with your taxi ride! is it any wonder, uber is doing so well in this city?
    as I said before, the taxis where I live, in the victorian country are very good, that is why uber does not get a foothold here, all people want is a bit of service and they will only to pleased to pay for that,
    TheTwoJays
    16th Nov 2015
    9:12am
    okay all...all you've succeeded in doing is giving me a monumental headache. I don't use taxis except in an emergency. It is good to have another option too though.
    Saalbach
    18th Nov 2015
    12:15pm
    Sorry Richied, but I am still confused by your argument. My understanding has always been that to operate a taxi, you had to have a taxi plate, and since these are strictly controlled re the number in circulation, I don't understand how Uber (in whatever flavour) can suddenly be licensed the same as a normal taxi. Any Uber driver who had to pay the large amounts for such a plate would have to charge similar fees to a normal taxi driver. You say Uber is fully licensed, fully regulated and fully legal. So they get all the safety checks done, pay all the same fees as normal taxis, and all states and territories have approved their services? I note that you admit that Uber used surge pricing to increase fares to 4 times the normal amount during the siege, but claim that taxis increased their fares by 100% at NYE in 2000. So a 400% increase this year during a tragedy is justified by a 100% increase during an amazing peak period? Thanks, but I will stick to a tried and tested system, rather than a disruptive one that has lower levels of protection.
    Richied
    18th Nov 2015
    2:32pm
    Hi Saalbach.
    Uber Taxis uses Taxis that have proper taxi plates and are therefore regulated in the same way as Taxis booked through usual channels. In fact they are just Taxis using Uber as the way they are booked.

    Uber Black and Lux are hire cars that have HC plates and are regulated that way.

    Uber X is illegal and unregulated.

    As to surge pricing, as I've mentioned I understand the algorithms are automated and increase when demand massively exceeds supply. There are no surprises with this - when you start your booking you are told if there is any surge and you can choose not to finalise the booking. For example last night I went to book an Uber taxi and saw there was a 50% surge. I chose to wait on the side of the road 15 minutes to flag down a passing cab (this ended up being 5% more expensive as I paid with a credit card).
    jamesmn
    18th Nov 2015
    2:46pm
    its not illegal and at least with uber the vehicles are roadworthy clean the drivers are polite and they know where they are going I have used them several times and I did not have to instruct he driver where to go not like yellow cabs which charge people a toll coming from Melbourne airport using the ring road when there is no toll and most of the other drivers buy their licences and then take advantage of young women travelling late at night none of the above happen with uber all of these yellow cabs and other companies should be retested and see how many pass their licence the owners of the taxis are as bad as the idiot drivers which make up for about 80% of drivers including country Victoria as well
    Denis & Narelle
    19th Nov 2015
    4:09pm
    Richied
    I wasn't going to spend any more of my time or breath trying to educate or alert people like you and a couple of the other correspondents, to the obviously unappreciated facts of the taxi industry or even the problems that may befall you in the future when Uber x takes over completely, which I can see happening with everyone from the Prime Minister down, including politicians of both creeds, enthusiastically backing Uber (in whatever format).
    It is so unfair and unjust that modern politicians can enthusiastically back Uber, using the fare pricing argument as the main driver, when it has been the politicians of the past who have brought the situation about. I know that you think it has been the Taxi Council that is to blame but I can assure you it is ludicrous to think that the Taxi Council has had any sway over the politicians or bureaucrats that have brought down the regulations governing the operation of licence taxis. As I explained earlier the NSW Taxi Council has argued against all manner of issues including the issue of additional plates, not to keep fares up, but to try to ensure there is a chance for licensed drivers to make a reasonable living. So far as the other correspondents who have criticised the standard of taxi drivers, particularly, and their vehicles, have any of those correspondents ever thought to ask why there is so many of the so called "smelly non-Australian drivers" and not more Australian drivers now in the industry. As I previously said, Victorian taxi drivers did not get a fare increase for 3 years. How many other workers, or business owners, were denied any increase in their income for 3 years. It is because Australians will not work under the current regulations, for the income likely to be forthcoming. Australians are smarter than that - Uber x provides them with an opportunity to earn money, without the necessity of purchasing and wearing a uniform, no set shift as expected of licensed drivers and most of all, no huge costs such as bailee or "rent" payments, network fees, huge insurance costs, taxi vehicle set-up costs (to install meters, lights, signs etc), all costs that the politicians and bureaucrats have introduced, in their regulation of the industry. Now, after outlaying and continuing to have to outlay considerable costs, taxi owners and lessees are being told by those politicians and bureaucrats, bad luck, we all of a sudden don't need those regulations.
    If I may use a personal example. At the moment we own, as part of our self managed superannuation package, a taxi plate in Newcastle which we have leased. Not a capital city and no huge lease amounts, but sufficient to prevent us getting any government pension. When Uber x is legalised in this State, and I am sure it will in the not-too-distant future, our plate will be worthless and handed back to us because why would a leasee pay us, pay the local taxi network, to operate a taxi when he can put his own car to work at greatly reduced costs. Because I am too old to go back driving taxis again, the plate will have to be handed in to the Roads and Traffic authority. I then claim a pension payment. I can see this happening many times over until there is none of todays taxis left on the road. So Richied, I hope that when that time arrives there is going to be plenty more Uber drivers, who want to work longer hours, particularly in the 1am - 5am time zone, and put up with the pub-crowd and other rowdy elements and willing to take a risk that their vehicle will not be damaged because, believe me, people will get angry if their Uber car is not there when they want it. Otherwise, without or even with a greatly reduced number of taxis on the road, you might have to wait longer than 15 minutes for a lift if you want to avoid the surge pricing. All this whilst Uber shifts its profits to The Netherlands, adding very little to tax payments in Australia, not even GST if it has its way. And on that matter, the Federal Government in 1999 told the taxi industry - all drivers will have to register for an ABN and collect and pay GST after its introduction. No negotiation, no discussion, its the new law, just do it. They don't call it the disruptive industry for nothing.
    Whilst the comments yesterday from jamesmn that "drivers buy their licences to take advantage of young woman" are hardly worthy of comment, I will comment on his assertion that he is charged a toll when traveling from Melbourne airport when there is not road toll involved. If that were truly the case jamesmn is not required to pay it and should report to the network concerned. HOWEVER I think jamesmn may be cofusing a road toll with the taxi fee that the airports around this country charge taxis picking up passengers at the airport. Again a charge on taxi fares, imposed on the industry, not sought by it, but one which can be legally applied. Of course Uber x drivers can just drive into the airport and pick up a passenger, appearing to be a private vehicle. I suggest jamesmn might check the correct situation before rubbishing a whole industry.
    Anonymous
    19th Nov 2015
    5:35pm
    one rotten apple might affect the industry, there is a whole case of them here in melbourne, people talk to other people and more and more cases of incompetence by the taxi industry are getting reported to the taxi industry regulators, in the newspapers, on the radio, just look at the charges of using cab charge with a credit or debit card for payment, smelly taxis, refusing to take persons on short trips, even if the minium flagfall in melbourne is $10.00, drivers not even knowing where the melbourne cricket ground is, a stadium known the world over, false photo's used on the dashboard and so the story goes on, yes there are great taxi drivers around, however they don't sit at the airports, unless you have arranged it beforehand, all you have to do is give them a ring on their private phone for their service, they have enough clients to keep them going.
    sorry denis and narella, but now-a-days, unless you give clients a good service, you are fighting a losing battle.


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