Jun 02, 2015

The VTA responds to Wendy Squires opinion piece, ‘Why I hail Uber and damn taxis' published in the Saturday Age on 30 May, 2015.

Letter to the Editor

There are many Australian taxi-using citizens who do not feel the same way as you Wendy Squires (‘Why I hail Uber and damn taxis’, 30 May). The Victorian taxi industry alone completes approximately 100,000 trips per day and are proud of the services we provide to passengers, including those with very few other choices – try telling them to hail an Uber…

We acknowledge that we aren't perfect and needed to lift the standards (which has been occurring rapidly), but we won't engage in vitriolic rhetoric and glib marketing campaigns. What we will do is listen to, and address, as many of the problems or concerns of our customers as possible. This includes you Wendy, should you wish. 

The argument advanced effectively endorses the use of unregulated taxi service and is unconcerned about the safety of millions or the impacts on the thousands of small business that make up the Victorian taxi industry. Instead apparently they deserve to face competition from international businesses who proudly flout Australian laws.

The competition in this case takes the form of an application run by an international company backed by the likes of Google who have led their partner drivers in to prosecutions throughout Australia, admit to having paid what amounts to millions in fines around the country and are publicly outraged by the recent decision from the ATO that Australians should dare expect them to pay their fair share of tax on earnings in Australia.

Many of the features you point to have existed in Victorian taxis and booking technologies long before any ‘disruptive technology’ hit Australian shores.  Every Melbourne taxi is equipped with GPS navigation technology, Victorian taxis were amongst the first in the world to accept electronic payments, and accredited taxi booking applications allow you to rate drivers, follow your cab on a map, will send you a text as the taxi is arriving, indicate the most efficient route on the map and confirm the trip on completion.  These apps too will confirm the taxi vehicle registration and driver who is en-route.

As to the price, business costs remain the determinant of service price for the customer.  The difference is that illegal ‘competitors’ choose not to burden themselves with regulatory or tax compliance therefore avoiding costs which would increase fares.

The taxi industry aims to please its customers, and you’re right, we do not oppose you having a choice of service provider.  The taxi industry is not asking for sympathy, simply a fair go – a level playing field on which to compete and a sensible conversation about the issues.