I hope you have had an opportunity to check out the first issue of VicTaxi. The decision to start our own publication reflects our desire to communicate more directly with the industry we represent, to give it a stronger voice and ensure industry participants are receiving up to date and relevant information at an incredibly challenging and busy time.
The way we provide our service is facing challenges more serious than we have ever seen. Rising to this challenge means succeeding in two key areas.
Firstly, we need a regulatory structure which does not inhibit growth and innovation but is also enforceable and fairly applied.
Secondly, we must provide a service that engages people and sees them actively choosing our service over an increasing number of external competitors, legal or otherwise.
These two areas are intrinsically linked. The regulation that has shaped taxi businesses directly influences how we deliver services. It is becoming increasingly obvious it is this very regulation that is inhibiting the ability of the legitimate taxi industry to compete with new service providers.
For regulation to be effective it needs to be both enforceable and enforced, otherwise it creates an uneven playing field where competitors cannot directly compete. This situation usually means the lowset cost model will prevail – and ultimately not to the benefit of the consumer.
Our newest competitor, in Uber and their Uber X service, is a clear manifestation of this. Let’s be clear, these guys don’t want to compete. They are simply using a big bank balance and a set of laws and penalties that did not consider the possibility of a large unethical global entity emerging in this way to carve out a share of the market.
Our laws and penalties were designed to deal with individuals who did the wrong thing, not large corporations. This is why regulators around the world have found it so difficult to respond, they do not have the tools they need to stop it. The idea that they do not have the desire to do so is, in my view, largely irrelevant. Even in places where there has been concerted regulatory opposition they have not been able to stop it.
So what do we do?
We do not simply lie down and accept what this company has done, ever.
Uber’s behaviour is appalling and cowardly. Their complete lack of corporate ethics is clear.
In Victoria, Uber facilitate others to go out and wantonly break the law to return a profit to them while taking no legal risk themselves. This is not a business model that should be condoned or embraced.
Our challenge is to argue for the right regulatory settings whilst building consumer confidence and delivering service excellence.
The VTA will do our best to ensure the right changes are made as quickly as possible, and if there are more structural changes, that strong arguments are put to ensure the losers are properly compensated.
We will continue to impress on Government the need to act urgently to stop the damage to the thousands of legitimate small businesses. Such businesses are currently being expected to compete with a new provider which makes a mockery of taxi regulation and will make every effort to maintain a constructive working relationship as they work through the complex policy issues it throws up.
The most important thing we have to do in the short term is to work hard to build confidence in our service and demonstrate why it is superior. This has to be more than just words. Service levels have to continue to increase and bad practice eradicated.
Never has it been more important to listen to what our customers are telling us and ensure our service aligns with their expectations. Much of the work we are doing at the VTA is directed in this way. We are investing to promote our industry and we want to hear your stories, particularly about your long term relationships with loyal passengers.
My team and I are looking forward to meeting these challenges. We are also keen to hear from you and work with you. I know people are busy but if you would like to get involved please do not hesitate to get in touch.