Monday 17 February 2014

Uber opposition

I'd expected that the Taxicab Federation wouldn't like Uber.

In last week's Herald, they protested that Uber would need to become an Approved Taxi Organisation. [HT: EdBlog]
NZTA [NZ Transport Agency] spokesman Andy Knackstedt said there were many requirements that must be met for establishing a company as an 'Approved Taxi Organisation' such as clearly displaying fares and driver identification, using a tested fare meter and having an in-vehicle security camera system installed.
"If Uber did not establish themselves as an ATO, they would rely on existing ATOs and their drivers integrating or using their system," Knackstedt said.
University of Canterbury senior lecturer in economics and transport commentator, Eric Crampton said Uber may be able to side-step taxi industry regulations by hiring drivers with a P endorsed drivers' license and using unmarked vehicles to operate as a 'private hire service'.
"Current cabbies could flip to Uber in their own cars, retired cabbies who still have the P endorsement could start up again, and others willing to sit the test could come into the market," Crampton said in his blog.
The New Zealand Taxi Federation has voiced safety concerns about the growth of app-based taxi booking systems becoming available around the country.
Other transport apps to launch in New Zealand recently are Zoomy, in use by taxi organisations, and Cab Chooze, along with other apps developed for taxi companies.
In a letter to the NZTA, Taxi Federation executive director Tim Reddish called for the apps to be shut down until the companies prove their drivers are properly licensed and operating under the control of approved ATO's.
"In our view any app-based taxi service delivery system must also ensure that customers are protected from unlicensed drivers and untested as fit for purpose vehicles," Reddish said.
Again, I am not a lawyer. But it looks to me like Uber could run under existing private hire service regulations. I expect that the Taxi Federation will do their best to block it.

If I were the Taxi Federation, I'd be claiming that an app-based immediate hire is a lot more like flagging down a cab than it is like an advance booking; if I were Uber, I'd say it's rather more like calling a bunch of car companies to see who'll give the best rate. I think the latter's the more accurate description and that the private hire regs could then apply, but again, I'm not a lawyer. If running as a private hire service under Section 6 hits the 'too hard' basket, Uber could still come in as an app booking system for more standard cabs, but we'd lose much of Uber's benefit: the ability to surge supply into the market with higher fares during periods of anticipated high demand. It's harder to bring part-timers into the market when they'd need to be running a signed, metered, and camera-equipped car.

And a big thank-you to Daniel Lynch at the Herald for doing this properly. He quoted from the blog while linking to it to provide context for those wanting the additional context. Nice job!

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