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Australian taxi-booking startup calls for urgent summit over UberX uncertainty

Friday, 28 November 2014 | By Andrew Sadauskas

The chief executive and co-founder of taxi-booking app goCatch, Ned Moorfield, is calling for an urgent summit of transport ministers over the UberX ride-sharing service.


Moorfield told StartupSmart the recent controversy at Uber (a competitor of goCatch), where one of its executives suggested digging dirt up on critical journalists such as Pando Daily's Sarah Lacy, is symptomatic of bigger cultural issues at the company.


“It didn’t come as a surprise. It’s symptomatic of the culture in the company. It amazes me that they haven’t fired the employee who made those comments,” Moorfield says.


Aside from company culture, Moorfield explains there is a fundamental difference between taxi-booking apps such as goCatch and the model used by UberX.


“We use accredited drivers in accredited taxis and we vet our drivers and ask to see proof that they have a driver authorisation card and ABN. UberX uses someone’s own car and driver’s licence without accreditation,” he says.


According to Moorfield, the continued operation of UberX in Australia poses regulatory challenges transport ministers need to clarify.


“It’s certainly an offer that has regulatory challenges. Now, we’re not calling for UberX to be banned necessarily, but what we do want to see is clarification,” he says.


“The legislation is black and white – you can’t deliver public transport services if you aren’t an accredited driver. But what we’re seeing is a lack of enforcement.


“A recent newspaper article showed the Department of Roads and Maritime in NSW issued just fifteen $1000 fines for UberX drivers. That’s laughable given the number of drivers that UberX has.


“So we want to get the transport ministers together and discuss whether they intend to accommodate a service like UberX or enforce the rules?”


Reducing the government costs avoided by UberX is a strategy Moorfield identifies as potentially levelling the playing field.


“There are substantial costs for plates in the taxi industry, and we think governments need to bring in lower-cost plates. There was a good innovation recently in Victoria recently where the state government is offering lower-cost ‘pre-booked-trip only’ plates,” Moorfield says.


“But UberX is throwing that aside, pocketing as profit costs that everyone else has to pay.”


Finally, Moorfield rules out launching an UberX-style service of his own without regulatory clarity on the matter.


“We’re only looking to act within the regulations. However, if there’s a lower-cost option within the regulations, we’d welcome it,” he says.


StartupSmart understands that Uber is paying the fines of any UberX drivers issued with an infringement notice.

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