Uber drivers hit with fines for ridesharing
Australian State Government authorities have cracked down on Uber's ridesharing service, issuing "infringement notices" to drivers offering lifts to passengers in Melbourne.
The move comes after the company quietly launched ridesharing to selected Uber 'members' in recent weeks, before commencing a full-scale Australian launch of the service across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Both the Victorian and New South Wales State Governments have come out against the ridesharing service, known as UberX, saying it does not comply with State transport legislation covering the provision of taxi and private hire car services.
Fairfax Media has since reported that the Victorian Taxi Services Commission has been issuing $1,700 fines to drivers found providing UberX rides to passengers in Melbourne. Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper reported that roughly 50 drivers have been caught by the crackdown.
In a statement to CNET, the Victorian TSC said it had issued infringement notices to what it calls "illegal hire cars" found operating in the State.
"In response to intelligence, the TSC recently conducted an investigation to detect illegal hire cars operating in Victoria," a TSC spokesperson told CNET.
"As part of this operation, infringement notices have been issued for vehicles found to be providing a commercial passenger service without the appropriate licence and for drivers who are not accredited.
"The TSC is keen to work with the industry to facilitate new entrants into the market, however this must be done within the framework of the law to ensure the safety of passengers and drivers."
CNET contacted Uber Melbourne for comment on the matter, specifically on whether it planned to continue the UberX service in Melbourne and other Australian cities, what was being done with UberX drivers who were fined and whether the company felt it had any responsibilities to its UberX drivers.
Uber did not respond to these questions, but issued a statement saying "we applaud the Victorian government's efforts and appreciate their support for innovation and competition".
However, the statement added: "Riders and drivers are flocking to the Uber platform precisely because we are solving a problem that has stood for decades in Melbourne -- the inability to get a safe, affordable, reliable ride when and where needed."
Uber said it looked forward to "continuing the ongoing conversation" it had been having with the Victorian Government since last year.
Melbourne is not the only city where Uber has come up against opposition to its ridesharing services. Earlier this year, taxi drivers in Paris brought roads to a standstill to protest the rise of car services including Uber, while one passenger reported being in an Uber car that came under attack from one of the city's cab drivers who slashed tires and smashed windows.
In the US, Uber has faced a number of legal challenges while Seattle's City Council recently revised regulations governing ridesharing in that city, limiting the number of drivers who could offer the service on any given day.