Disgruntled taxi drivers in Melbourne have the chance to take part in a possible class action against Uber. Lawyers claim taxi drivers experienced severe loss of income between 2013 and August 2017 because of Uber. They allege taxi drivers operated within the law while Uber ignored it. It is a sign of big changes in Victoria’s passenger vehicle industry.
Uber and Taxify
As part of the first stage of industry reform, Uber became legal in Victoria in August 2017. At the same time, these reforms substantially reduced taxi licence fees. They introduced compensation for taxi owners from a $50 million Fairness Fund.
While many passengers like reduced fares, and drivers enjoy flexible hours, the traditional taxi industry still perceives Uber as a threat. The company is under attack in various parts of the globe. For example, London authorities forced the company to stop operating in September 2017. Early in the same year, unhappy taxi owners in Canada initiated a class action against Uber.
Another disrupter in the ridesharing industry, Taxify, has just launched in Melbourne. Taxify is an Estonian company with strong financial backing and already operates in 20 countries. It launched first in Sydney in December 2017 and will launch in Brisbane in early 2018.
Taxify will compete with Uber in these markets. This will be cold comfort for traditional taxi owners who might still feel the rug was taken out from under them.
On 12 December 2017, the second stage of reform legislation passed in Victoria: It
- Calls all taxis, hire car and rideshare vehicles, commercial passenger vehicles
- Introduces flexible fares for all rides booked by app
- Regulates maximum fares for rank and hail services
- Simplifies the registration system
- Makes all participants responsible for passenger and driver safety.
Owners of commercial passenger vehicles will start paying a $1 levy per trip during 2018. This will help fund the $494 million compensation package for the taxi industry. At the same time, annual licence fees of up to $23,000 will be completely removed. Once the reform is completed in 2018, all commercial passenger vehicle services can set their own fares as hire cars currently do.
Meanwhile, taxi drivers have until 22 February to register interest in the possible class action. They are not the only ones against Uber.