The “fun rides” service offered by ride-sharing service Uber is operating illegally on the streets of Adelaide, according to the state government.
State Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan said today the promotion was in breach of the Passenger Transport Act and drivers could be prosecuted.
The “fun rides” promotion, which began in Adelaide last week, offers ride-sharing services for $4.99, just below the $5 threshold in SA’s passenger transport regulations.
However, Mullighan said his advice was that the promotion was in breach of the Act and its regulations.
“DPTI officers have been conducting compliance operations to identify any breaches of the Act and they will be dealt with in the same way the department deals with other breaches,” he said in a statement.
“Uber X services are illegal across Australia.
“Like most states and territories, the South Australian Government has established an independent review to look at the future of the taxi and chauffeured vehicle industry, and specifically the opportunities for competition and innovation, but in the meantime, the community expects us to enforce the law and put safety first.
“We would urge Uber to focus on working with the review panel.”
An Uber spokesperson denied the promotion was in breach of the Act.
“Uber is familiar with the Passenger Transport Act and Regulations, and believes that the Adelaide Funrides promotion is compliant,” the spokesperson said.
“We provided written notice of this $4.99 Funrides promotion to the Minister several weeks ago, and had two follow up discussions with his office. The first we heard of the Minister’s objection is now, through the media.
“We hope the government does not simply bow to the wishes of the taxi industry. We will always support our partners, as we always do around the world.”
Uber is relying on a passenger transport regulation which excludes from the definition of a passenger transport service “a service consisting of a ride provided for the purposes of fun or amusement for a fare that is less than $5 per ride”.
The riding app has drawn the ire of taxi drivers in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, culminating in a rowdy protests yesterday where drivers blocked off key CBD streets in each of the capital cities.
The taxi drivers are calling for the ride-sharing app to be outlawed as the service gains momentum around the country.
In South Australia, Uber Black services – which use accredited hire cars and divers – is legal in SA.
Taxi Council SA accused Uber of “making a mockery of the law”.
“In my opinion, the $4.99 so-called ‘fun rides’ breach the Passenger Transport Act and create artificially low prices that cause suffering to hard-working Australian small business owners who have spent a lifetime building a business driving taxis,” said council president Jim Triantafyllou.
He said the council would not call a strike in SA because the taxi industry, adding they preferred “to work cooperatively with the independent review panel set up by the government to make further improvements in the SA taxi and chauffeured vehicle industries”.
He said the penalties for the illegal provision of a transport service must be looked at Australia-wide.
“There should be not just fines, but demerit points for the drivers and the impounding and selling of vehicles for subsequent offences – there must be accountability.”
“After all, these drivers are flouting a passenger transport system that exists to protect the travelling public,” Triantafyllou said.
“All we have ever asked for is a level playing field and for passenger safety to be put first.”
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