Australian officials believe Uber is blocking the phone numbers of inspectors that want to crack down on Uber’s operations in some Australian cities, according to a report from Australia’s ABC News.
Uber is not allowed to legally operate in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia.
Last May, Australian authorities gave Uber a cease and desist, which stated drivers caught accepting passengers — which can happen in sting operations when authorities request a ride on the Uber app on their phone — could receive fines for $US1,707 for unauthorised driving and $US1,366 for providing unlicensed taxi services, according to Australia’s Brisbane Times. Drivers can be fined repeatedly.
According to ABC, which obtained correspondence from Department of Transport officials, undercover inspectors tried to conduct a sting operation against Uber drivers back in August, but were thwarted when Uber blocked their phone numbers and consequently their Uber accounts.
“No covert activity was done today, Uber locked third phone due to [infringement notices] being issued yesterday,” Department of Transport staffer Scott Hall said in an email from August. “Time was spent purchasing new credit cards, activating gmail accounts, and setting up two more phones […] covert activity will re-commence tomorrow.”
An Uber representative cited suspicious activity when an inspector asked about a suspended account, the ABC reports.
“I can see that our system has picked up unusual activity linked to this account,” the representative said. “It’s currently under investigation and will remain banned until we get to the bottom of it.”
A government spokesperson told the Brisbane Times that $US260,000AUD ($US211,753) in fines have been doled out to 95 Uber drivers since May,
“As uberX flourishes in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Geelong and the Gold Coast, the support for sensible regulations that are based on the public interest and encouraging innovation is growing,” Uber Australia said in a
blog post from December.
“We have heard calls for reform from a number of organisations and individuals including Choice, Graeme Samuel Chair of the Victorian Taxi Services Commission, Professor Allan Fels, NSW Shadow Transport Minister, Penny Sharpe, NSW Minister for Finance, Dominic Perrottet, Independent Lord Mayor of Perth, Lisa Scaffidi, the Western Australian Liberal party. The list goes on.”
We reached out to Uber for comment and will update this post if we hear back.