Friday 4 March 2016

Is Uber legal in Melbourne?

Uber is definitely one of the coolest inventions of this century.

The idea of selecting a ride-sharing car with just a click on your smart phone, tracking the movement and progress of the car via real-time GPS, rating the driver, and making cashless payment with a quote in advance. It’s friendlier, cleaner and more efficient than hailing a traditional taxi on the road.

The service is present in most major cities in Australia. The Australian Capital Territory (where Canberra is located) was the first city to enact a legislation to legalize the Uber ride-sharing idea. This is followed by the most populous state - New South Wales (Sydney) and Western Australia (Perth), declaring Uber as legal and introducing new Bills to regulate the services.

So, is Uber legal in the state of Victoria (Melbourne)?

Unfortunately (and very disappointingly): No.

Currently, the Uber service is illegal in Victoria, following a decision of the court in December 2015 finding an Uber driver Nathan Brenner guilty for driving a hire car without a commercial license or registration. Uber’s argument in court, that it is not providing taxi services, but merely a platform “facilitating a way for passengers and drivers to find each other”, failed. 

A new Bill was presented last month (February 2016) for the first time in the Victorian Upper House to establish a legal framework for the regulation of ride sharing services in Victoria. The details of the Bill are not fully available yet, though for sure it is going to be one of the most significant pieces of legislation that all Victorians are very much looking forward to.

Recent news reported that Uber is taking aggressive move to compel the Victorian government to support the rights of the people to choose Uber. Uber is adding a feature in its app whereby its 500,000 passengers and 6500 drivers can now bombard the emails and Twitter accounts of Victorian MPs with just a click of button on the phone.

Will the government succumb to the pressure? Let’s just wait and see.

Updated in May 2016: 

Melbourne UberX driver Nathan Brenner won an appeal against his conviction in December. This effective legalizes the ride-sharing service in Victoria. Click here for more.

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