Victorian taxi industry abandons campaign against Uber in favour of reform

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Victoria’s Taxi Association has abandoned industrial action and campaigning as a response to Uber, admitting the industry has not responded well to customer criticism.

On Monday the association’s chief executive, David Samuel, announced an initiative calling for honest feedback from taxi customers so that the industry could adapt and respond.

“In 2015, if we’re not providing a service people want to use, then the amount of competition will see our industry decline,” Samuel said.

“We won’t let that occur. We’ve been around for about 150 years and have responded to many challenges over that time, and we’ll do it again.”

But to remain competitive, the industry had to act on criticisms and understand where it was failing, Samuel said.

“Being heard is one thing,” he said. “Being responded to and seeing change is something different. It’s all very well to accept criticism, but there has been a failure in the past to dig down into the problems and to try to understand them and respond to them.

“We must make sure there’s a platform for people to share their concerns, and we expect criticism.” Currently, one customer complaint was made for every 7,500 trips, he said.

In September, the state’s taxi drivers rallied on the steps of Victoria’s parliament house during industrial action, calling on the government to crack down on Uber. Protests have also occurred in Sydney and Canberra.

At the time, a Victorian Taxi Association spokeswoman told Fairfax: “The demonstration reflects the rising level of frustration in the taxi industry as legitimate taxi businesses are being expected to compete with an illegal service which refuses to comply with Victorian commercial passenger vehicle regulations.”

But Samuel told Guardian Australia on Monday, the association did not promote industrial action “as an effective action”.

“Though what individuals might or might not choose to do, that’s up to them,” he said, adding that drivers were responding positively to the new feedback campaign.

Nick Andrianakis, who has been driving taxis in Victoria for 34 years, said he loved his job and the conversations he had with his customers.

“But there have been some shortfalls from drivers, and we’re trying to weed out those drivers,” he said.

“I think it’s not only about getting taxi drivers on board with the campaign, but getting customer understanding of what we do and the services that we have to offer.”

Autralia’s states and territories are examining how to regulate Uber, which has established itself with no coordination with government. Unlike taxi drivers, Uber drivers do not have to pay registration fees or sit a knowledge test.

In September, the ACT became the first jurisdiction to announce legal and regulated use of Uber, cutting taxi licence fees from $20,000 to $10,000, with a further $5,000 cut due next year.

In April, the Victorian government announced a ministerial forum for the taxi and hire car industries, which includes a working group of representatives from across both industries examining how app-based services might be regulated.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Melissa Davey, for theguardian.com on Monday 9th November 2015 02.22 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

 

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