Ride-sharing service UberX had a major win in its battle to become legal in Victoria today after winning an appeal against the conviction of one of its drivers.
Nathan Brenner was found guilty of two counts of operating without a licence, as well as driving without commercial accreditation, in December last year and fined $900.
Two Taxi Services Commission (TSC) investigators had booked the ride and the conviction effectively made Uber illegal in the state. UberX has been legalised in NSW, the ACT and South Australia.
The TSC launched an undercover sting operation against UberX in August 2014, charging a number of drivers as a result. The case again Brenner, a former manager of bands Men at Work and Split Enz, was the first of 12 similar prosecutions in Victoria and thus seen as a test case on the future of the service.
In dismissing the prior conviction, Judge Geoff Chettle of the County Court ordered the TSC to pay the costs for the case. Uber had been covering Brenner’s legal costs during the fight to become legalised in the state.
Victorian Taxi Association CEO David Samuel said the case was “a comedy of errors from the very beginning” and the verdict relied on a loophole that allowed illegal services to avoid prosecution.
“The onus now lies with Taxi Services Commissioner Graeme Samuel to explain how several amendment bills and two year state-wide industry inquiry failed to identify the potential implications of this clause, and remove it,” he said.
“You might as well throw the taxi and hire car bill out the window. This outcome fundamentally undermines the integrity of the framework of rules and laws regulating the commercial passenger vehicle industry in Victoria.”
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