It seems that Uber’s Victorian legal troubles will soon be over, as the state government this week committed to introducing laws that will regulate ridesharing services.
As reported last month, Uber has been technically illegal in Victoria since December 2015. A court battle in May ruled in favour of Uber drivers, but it was only this week that the Victorian government gave a clear indication it would pass laws.
The regulation will be based on a bill introduced this week by a minor party senator, Fiona Patten.
Senator Patten, leader of the Sex Party says that ride-sharing services such as Uber are something of a “law unto themselves” and currently operate in a “grey area” – neither legal nor illegal. She says greater controls need to be placed on the industry to ensure driver and community safety.
The private member’s bill introduced yesterday by Senator Patten aims to clearly define the rights, roles and responsibilities of key players in the industry, including facilitators, such as Uber, and drivers.
While Uber currently makes background checks to determine driver eligibility, the bill would establish this in law. Standards on car safety and insurance are also part of the bill, as is a system of fines for companies such as Uber if they fail to meet their obligations.
Patten’s bill has not been put to a vote but the Government has agreed to use it as the foundation for legislation they will introduce after Parliament’s winter break. Any future law is likely to be extended to consider issues such as impacts on – and compensation for – the taxi industry, and the provision of subsidies to disabled people using ride-sharing services.
Though other states, including NSW, Western Australia and the ACT have legalised Uber, Senator Patten’s bill was developed from the ground up due to the complexity and differences in the taxi industries in each jurisdiction.
Senator Patten considers it important to regulate ride sharing as it’s likely that more operators will enter the market to compete with Uber. While she acknowledges the taxi industry is unhappy with the situation (one taxi driver told her they should “shut down the internet”), she considers the emergence of ride sharing companies will actually force the taxi industry to modernise and better reflect community needs.