The NSW government has found a new way to tackle UberX, with Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) suspending the registration on 40 vehicles involved in the smartphone ride-sharing service.
The cars will be taken off the road for three months from this Wednesday with RMS compliance director Peter Wells saying they were in breach of passenger transport laws.
“The suspension notices have been issued to registered owners of vehicles found to be operating a privately registered vehicle for business purposes,” he said.
“If a suspended vehicle is found on the road after 1 October, the vehicle is deemed unregistered and uninsured, with penalties of $637 for each offence, increasing to around $2200 if heard in court.”
Under NSW law, taxi and hire car services must be RMS-accredited, including the car and driver. UberX uses private vehicles and drivers, booked via a smartphone app.
The change of tack comes after the RMS was forced to drop prosecutions against 24 UberX drivers in July after a magistrate ruled it did not have the authority to prosecute the alleged offences.
Peter Wells said that thousands of dollars in fines had already been issued to drivers and the compliance actions will continue.
“If drivers continue to offer illegal ride sharing services — they will continue to risk registration suspensions and fines,” he said.
In response Uber said it was reviewing the legal options to reverse the decision. The business has previously covered the legal costs and fines of its drivers when taken to court by governments.
“We are shocked that the Roads and Maritime Services did not appear to show these drivers any due process,” an Uber spokesperson said.
Submissions to a government inquiry into the future of what’s known as “point to point” transport: taxis, hire cars and other emerging providers, such as ridesharing apps, closed last week. The task force due to report its findings in October.
Uber’s submission pushed to make ride-sharing apps legal, but the tech disruptor has been facing an increasingly strident campaign against it from the NSW Taxi Council, which earlier this month protested outside Parliament House.
NSW premier Mike Baird said today that he was awaiting the completion of the review and “will be responding appropriately”.
Reacting to news that 40 cars had been suspended, the premier said “at the moment the status quo is the status quo and that’s what we expect participants to abide by”.
Uber argued the popularity of their service was proof that it’s what consumers want
“We look forward to seeing the government recognise this by putting sensible ridesharing regulations in place as quickly as possible,” a company spokesperson said.
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